Australia, Germany, and Switzerland have pledged nearly $13 million in funding for the Mekong River Commission (MRC) to assist member countries including Cambodia, Laos, Thailand and Vietnam with their responses to pressing challenges while safeguarding the ecological functioning of the Mekong River and improving people’s livelihoods.
In a press release, the MRC said the contribution follows a series of funding from development partners as it begins implementing its Strategic Plan 2021–2025 to overcome the multiple threats that the basin faces.
MRC Secretariat CEO An Pich Hatda said on the sidelines of a signing ceremony during the Informal Development Partners Meeting in the Lao capital Vientiane on June 25 that the support was timely and crucial to the MRC in implementing activities that balance the demands of socio-economy development and environment protection.
Under the new Strategic Plan, Hatda said the MRC will ensure that new national power generation plans consider the full range of viable generation sources, including water-food-energy as well as the complementary use of wind and solar energy while promoting gender diversity, equity and inclusion in the water sector.
The commission, he added, will also explore how the operation of water infrastructures throughout the basin should be coordinated to maximise their benefits and limit adverse environmental impacts on the Mekong mainstream and people.
“The MRC will continue to foster regional dialogue among the basin countries and deepen its engagement with China as well as all other partners throughout ASEAN and the Lancing-Mekong Cooperation area, for the benefit of all Mekong constituents,” he said in the press release.
Australian ambassador to Laos Paul Kelly said the new funding commitment from his government was worth A$5.1 million (US$3.8 million).
“We hope the grant of these funds will assist the MRC and its Member Countries to enable inclusive and sustainable use of water and related resources of the Mekong, as a contribution to economic recovery from the pandemic for building environmental resilience and strengthening regional cooperation,” Kelly said.
Kelly said Australia was also providing additional technical support to the MRC in other key areas, including the MRC Flood and Drought Management Centre and the reinvigoration of the MRC data and information systems.
German ambassador to Laos Jens Lutkenherm pledged a contribution of €3 million ($3.55 million).
Lutkenherm said the funding would be dispensed over three years beginning in 2022, with $1.2 million allocated to the MRC’s core funding mechanism and the balance allotted to the MRC–GIZ Cooperation Programme for technical support.
“We believe this funding will help the MRC establish the core river monitoring network in the Mekong region, thus contributing to informing decisions over the development and management of water resources and to boosting the MRC’s ability to manage flood and drought risks more effectively,” he said.
Jean-Francois Cuenod, regional director of the Swiss Agency for Development and Cooperation, pledged $5.3 million for the MRC’s new strategic plan over the next five years.
“We congratulate the MRC on launching the new visionary strategies that are critical to the Mekong River Basin.
“We look forward to working with the MRC, its member countries and other development partners in shifting the region towards a more sustainable and resilient path while making sure that no one will be left behind,” he said.