How the Mekong River Commission ignores reality

Nothing is worth celebrating in how a once mighty wild river has been cruelly tamed.

Among the many “days” celebrated by the international community, one entrant seems especially incongruous. “Mekong Day” was proclaimed by the Mekong River Commission’s (MRC) headquarters in Vientiane to celebrate the signature of the “Agreement on the Cooperation and Sustainable Development of the Mekong River”, which took place in Chiang Rai on 5 April in 1995.

Like many other “days” listed both by the United Nations and less august institutions, the celebration of a particular date does not necessarily reflect the hopes associated with the event that it commemorates. The Mekong, sadly, is in a truly corrupted condition.

While it was hoped by activists concerned with the future of the Mekong that the 1995 agreement would provide a way to block the construction of dams on the Mekong this is not what has happened – and a careful reading of the agreement always meant this could not be the case. Moreover, China has never accepted the invitations that have been made for it to become a signatory to the agreement. This has meant that China’s actions in relation to the Mekong where its course runs through Yunnan province have never been affected by the agreement.

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