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Mekong River Commission
Regional Flood Management and Mitigation Centre (RFMMC)
7th Annual Mekong Flood Forum (AMFF-7)

Opening Address by
Dr. Siripong Hungspreug, Director General of the Department of Water Resources
Ministry of Natural Resources and Environment and Secretary General of Thai National Mekong Committee

Bangkok, Thailand
13 – 14 May 2009


Mr. Jeremy Bird, Chief Executive Officer of the MRCS;

Distinguished Delegates of the MRC Member Countries and Dialogue Partners;

Donor Representatives, Partners and International Organisation Representatives;

Ladies and Gentlemen

I am very pleased to be here today as we begin the 7th Annual Mekong Flood Forum on the theme that is so important for our societies 'Integrated flood risk management in the Mekong River Basin'

This forum - organised by the Regional Flood Management and Mitigation Centre of the Mekong River Commission in close cooperation with the Thai National Mekong Committee - marks another significant achievement in the operations of this very important institution.

Since last year's forum, with the extreme flooding of August 2008 in certain parts of our countries, we have had the benefit of increased experience with managing Mekong flooding. It is with this experience in mind that we do our work with respect to the Mekong River Basin today and hopefully the presentations and discussions during this Forum will contribute to the improvement of our practices.

Under the umbrella of the main theme, I would like to encourage you to focus our discussions on four main issues:

  • The data collection, database systems and tools used for dissemination of flood forecasting and early warning messages to potentially flood affected communities. This might be quite technical – but as we saw during the flooding – there is a need and there are good possibilities for improvement in the accuracy of this information;
  • The development of guidelines for the preparation of flood risk management plans and for evaluation of the impacts of flood risk management measures. This topic is at my heart, while it includes many governance issues. How can the governments and line agencies of the MRC member countries act to reduce the risk of injury and loss from flooding?
  • The identification of potential trans-boundary issues for negotiation, mediation and the finding of optimal solutions. This is an area where the MRC has been working on during many areas from navigation to fisheries. Member countries have already demonstrated an impressive ability to co-operate on a range of issues – such as early warning and search and rescue. How can this be further improved?
  • The development of a regional flash flood early warning system.

Much work has gone into preparing the country reports, scientific and other papers and there are a range of presentations on the agenda that will be very informative for us all today and tomorrow.

This forum offers an excellent opportunity to present and discuss the Annual Mekong Flood Report for 2008 as produced by the MRC Regional Flood Management and Mitigation Centre. This report examines the impacts of floods from the perspectives of the four MRC member countries, Cambodia, the Lao PDR, Thailand and Viet Nam. It also puts the floods into a historical context by explaining the hydrological cycle of the Mekong and the developments in our societies as related to the Mekong River Basin.

It focuses on the fact that floods are not only bad. They belong in fact to a natural process that may improve lives. Fisheries, agriculture and biodiversity are all dependant on the annual flooding. The report calls for us to understand this process and integrate it into our flood management strategies.

I hope that the presentations and discussions of the next two days will act as a mechanism to review and improve our practices by adopting the principles of integrated flood risk management in our flood management and mitigation policies, plans and projects.

The rapid population growth in the region, urbanisation, intensification of agriculture, changes in land use and the very shape of the river require a holistic approach towards flood risks management in which reliable and better lead-time flood forecasts and early warnings could be regarded as the first important element for flood preparedness and need to be improved. This is in the interests of everyone who lives in the Mekong River Basin.
Flood forecasting and warning is very complex and can only work if it is well coordinated – with the people interpreting data – line agencies – governments and even to individual communities. All playing their part.
Let’s start this process today with similarly - well co-ordinated, dynamic presentations and discussions.

Distinguished Delegates,
Ladies and Gentlemen,

Before concluding, I would like to take the opportunity to express my profound gratitude and thanks to my colleagues in the other MRC member countries and of the Dialogue Partners for the good cooperation that we have with respect to the relevant issues of joint interest in the Mekong River Basin.

In addition I like to thank the governments of the Netherlands, Germany, France, Denmark, Japan and the United States and other development partners, namely, the Asian Development Bank and the European Commission for their continuing support for the MRC’s Flood Management and Mitigation Programme. Please be assured that our countries are fully committed to the important work that the MRC is doing for our countries and especially for the communities that potentially may suffer from flooding.

To conclude my opening address, I would like to declare the Seventh Annual Mekong Flood Forum open and I hope that every participant has the opportunity to make a productive contribution and that everyone has a pleasant stay in Bangkok.

Thank you.





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