Mekong River Commission officials are urging close relations with China following an announcement that the Chinese will continue with six scheduled dam projects that could threaten countries downstream.
“We are calling for a very close dialogue between the [Mekong River Commission] and the member countries and the upstream country, China,” said Joern Kristensen, chief executive of the Mekong River Commission Secretariat. Kristensen spoke Wednesday at the opening of a three-day meeting of Mekong delegates in Phnom Penh.
The MRC and its member countries worry about what impact those dams will have on the course of the river. “What impact would that have for the people living downstream, particularly in Cambodia, where so many people depend so much on the fisheries?” Kristensen asked.
The Associated Press reported Monday that China is moving ahead with plans to build six more dams along the Mekong river in order to provide power to southwestern Chinese cities.
About half of the Mekong river lies in China. The river also runs through Burma, Laos, Thailand, Cambodia and Vietnam before emptying into the South China Sea.
The MRC already has held some talks with China in hopes of finding ways to best manage the river, Kristensen said.
“Competing demands for limited water and land resources can lead to haphazard development, which is likely to exacerbate existing inequities and threaten fragile ecosystems,” said Mark Rosegrant, a researcher at the International Food Policy Research Institute.
Talks will continue today and Friday. Organizers hope to finish a research plan protecting Mekong River countries. The MRC now has a Web site that gives information on dry-season water levels along the Mekong. The site, www.mrcmekong.org, lists three-day forecasts of river levels.