Sunday , April 21 2024

Mekong River basin faces great challenges: Vietnam PM

Prime Minister Pham Minh Chinh said the Mekong River basin has to serve the need of resources for development, and deal with climate change.

“The increasing demand for resources to serve economic and social development in combination with the unprecedented impact of climate change creates great pressure on natural resources and ecological environment in the basin,” the prime minister told a meeting of leaders of member countries of the Mekong River Commission (MRC) on the occasion of the 4th MRC Summit in Vientiane on Wednesday.

Chinh said in the past 10 years, the total flow of the basin has decreased by 4-8%, while countries in the basin have increased the use of water in the Mekong River by 5-12%.

Lying in the lower reaches of the river, Vietnam’s Mekong Delta is facing the consequences of reduced Mekong flows. The phenomenon of saline intrusion in the region also appeared 1-1.5 months earlier with a larger range and intensity than before.

It is predicted that by 2040, the delta will have less than five million tons of alluvium per year, dropping by more than nine times compared to currently, and down nearly 30 times compared to 15 years ago. This has directly affected the livelihoods of more than 20 million people living in the basin.

PM Chinh called on Mekong basin countries to coordinate their actions to meet the urgent needs.

“Our attitude towards the river will always be clear and transparent, for the sake of the ecological environment, the interests of the community and responsibility to future generations,” he said.

Chinh asked MRC members, including Vietnam, Laos, Thailand and Cambodia, and partners to cooperate in promoting the development of a green economy, circular economy, renewable energy development, to contribute to sustainable development, ensuring energy security and a response to climate change.

He also said that the MRC needs to innovate management and administration through digital transformation and the application of technology.

The MRC is an intergovernmental organization established in 1995 to boost regional dialogue and cooperation in the Lower Mekong River Basin. Based on the Mekong Agreement among Cambodia, Laos, Thailand and Vietnam, the MRC serves as both a regional platform for water diplomacy and a knowledge hub to manage water resources and support sustainable development in the region.

The fourth summit is focused discussions and making policies to resolve issues by countries in the Lower Mekong River Basin.

This year, the summit aims to affirm the commitments of the four MRC members when it comes to abiding by the 1995 Mekong Agreement, analyze and evaluate opportunities and challenges regarding water sources, and determine plans to implement the Mekong River Basin Development Strategy for the 2021-2030 period.

According to MRC monitoring, the past decade has seen higher dry season flows, and lower flood season flows. Last December, Tonle Sap, the region’s largest, most productive lake, saw its outflow into the Mekong fall to one-half its 1995 level.

As for sediment transport, upstream sediment trapping and sand mining have dramatically reduced sediment loads in some parts from 60% and 90%, which can impact both floodplain productivity and riverbank stability.

Rising salinity is another concern, with parts of the Mekong Delta just two meters above sea level. Salinity concentrations above one gram per liter already has consequences for irrigation yet now the MRC measures concentrations at four grams per liter.

The Mekong River, spanning 4,350 kilometers, starts from China and flows through Cambodia, Laos, Thailand and Vietnam before reaching the ocean. It is considered the lifeblood of the Southeast Asia.

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