The Mekong River Commission (MRC) held its 13th regional stakeholder forum in Luang Prabang, Laos on October 5 to offer participants updates on water-resource developments along the Mekong River, southeast Asia’s largest river, which affects tens of millions of lives.

The forum focused on the current state of the basin, mainstream development projects, and proactive regional planning initiatives under the theme “Data Sharing for Transparency and Trust”.

Almost 200 attendees, comprising government officials from MRC member nations, national Mekong committee secretaries as well as representatives from the energy, environment, fishery and irrigation sectors, participated.

MRC dialogue partners, including China and Myanmar, private entities like hydropower dam developers, NGOs, academic scholars, and other stakeholders from within and beyond the Mekong region, joined the forum as well.

Siriphone Souphanthong, vice-governor of Luang Prabang, emphasised the region’s commitment to Mekong water security and its alignment with sustainable and green growth aspirations.

“Luang Prabang is prepared to share all hydropower-related information in our area,” she added.

Anoulak Kittikhoun, CEO of the MRC Secretariat, remarked on the broader global shifts in politics, climate and the Mekong basin’s implications. He highlighted the vital role of transparency and trust in mitigating uncertainties.

“We are navigating significant shifts in global politics, the climate and the Mekong River basin, all of which have profound impacts on economies, the environment and river flow,” Kittikhoun stated.

“With these changes come uncertainties. One way to address this uncertainty is through transparency, which hinges on data sharing and trust. They are intrinsically linked. At this forum, we’re disseminating information from various entities including governments, the MRC and the private sector. We greatly appreciate your collaboration in this data-sharing,” he added.

Chanthanet Boualapha, Laotian vice-minister of National Resources and Environment, highlighted the multifaceted development challenges confronting the region, noting the region’s rapid transformation over the past three decades. He underscored Laos’s commitment to sustainable development principles and its dedication to sharing crucial information about its hydropower projects with the MRC and stakeholders.

Kol Vathana of the Cambodia National Mekong Committee (CNMC) explained that the forum’s primary objective was to foster knowledge sharing and collate feedback on draft studies and development plans for the Mekong Basin.

“The work in the Mekong isn’t limited to the four member countries. The river basin benefits multiple nations in the region, necessitating inclusive stakeholder involvement,” Vathana stated.