Cambodia, Vietnam, Laos and Thailand pledged Wednesday to cooperate in managing and developing the Mekong River and the four countries have begun working out a plan for how much water each country can draw from the river.
“Without an agreement, when water resources become scarce, it could easily turn into a conflict,” said Joern Kristensen, chief executive officer of the Mekong River Commission, the body which oversees management of the river. “As you see in other parts of the world, water can turn out to be a major source of conflict.”
At a ceremony Wednesday, representatives from the four countries signed an agreement on how the 43-year-old river commission will continue to operate.
“We should be proud of ourselves,” said Khy Tainglim, minister of Public Works and Transport and Cambodia’s delegate to the MRC Council. “[The agreement] is proof that we are the only legal international authority dealing with the sustainable development of the Mekong basin.”
With a two-day workshop beginning this morning, the MRC is launching its Water Utilization Program, a multi-year project to develop rules for water sharing along the Mekong, a crucial issue during the dry season.
The $16-million project, funded largely through the World Bank, also will establish a legal framework for settling disputes between countries over water use.
Member countries are obligated to notify other members when they are planning a project that will affect the Mekong. The MRC can initiate an environmental assessment to determine dangers posed by the project, but cannot prevent a country, say, from constructing a dam.