New Mekong Plan Is to Reduce Flood Damage lan Aims to Reduce Damage

Hoping to build on their past successes preventing flood devastation but perhaps also thinking about new directions, the Me­kong River Commission closed a workshop Tuesday aimed at finishing drafts for a revised flood management plan.

Organizers of the two-day conference, held at a Phnom Penh hotel, tasked themselves with coming up with proposals for a wide array of flood management techniques—from early warning systems to land management.

The latter issue could be a thorny one for the commission. Chi­na and Burma, which are not members of the commission but share the upper Mekong, have drawn criticism in the past for their scale and pace of development projects such as dams, which have disrupted life on the lower Mekong. In spite of those “concerns,” the river commission does not need to take a stronger stance against wildcat projects, Cam­bodian National Mekong Com­mittee Vice Chairman Sin Niny said. “We would like to avoid conflict and confrontation in the region,” Sin Niny said.

“If we establish mechanisms for dialogue, we can discuss all of the actions of China. I hope, step by step, the dialogue will be constructive…and maybe one day, China will join the Mekong River Commission,” Sin Niny said.

The last three years of floods have inflicted millions of dollars of damage and displaced thousands of people. Although some aid officials have given groups like the river commission credit for im­proving their flood forecasting and getting the word out of pending high waters, officials still need to work harder, commission official Lieven Geerinck told conferees on Monday. The $33 million flood management project does not aim to re­duce flooding, as past efforts have done, but in­tends to reduce the damage from flooding, Geerinck said.

According to a release issued at the conference, the commission is asking for public comments on their draft plans. The plan can be viewed on the group’s Web site, www.mrcmekong.org/MekongInfo, the release stated.

 

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