WELCOME SPEECH by
DR OLIVIER COGELS
Chief Executive Officer, Mekong River Commission Secretariat.
Ho Chi Minh City, Viet Nam
17-18 May 2007
Mr Nguyen Hong Toan, Secretary General Viet Nam National Mekong Committee, MRC Joint Committee Member for Viet Nam
Dr Armand Evers, First Secretary Integrated Water
Royal Netherlands Embassy, Hanoi
Donors, Partners and International Organisations;
Ladies and Gentlemen
On behalf of the Mekong River Commission Secretariat, I am delighted to welcome you all to the 5th Annual Mekong Flood Forum here in Ho Chi Minh City, Viet Nam.
I would like to extend my gratitude to Mr Nguyen Hong Toan, Secretary General of the Viet Nam National Mekong Committee, MRC Joint Committee Member for Viet Nam for presenting the opening address and to the Government of the Netherlands which generously sponsored this forum.
I would also like to take this opportunity to thank the governments of the Netherlands, Germany, France, Denmark, Japan and the United States of America as well as the Asian Development Bank and the European Commission for their support to the MRC’s Flood Management and Mitigation Programme and welcome delegates from these countries.
I welcome our distinguished guests from our member countries of Cambodia, Lao PDR, Thailand and Viet Nam and from our dialogue partner countries, China and Myanmar, and all those participants who have travelled from other countries to be here today. I would also like to acknowledge the important inputs and continued support of our member countries and associated line agencies.
I am sure that the representatives of the MRC member countries are sharing with me the pleasure and honour of feeling such a strong and enthusiastic support from so many outstanding experts and scientists from all around the world. Besides the scientific knowledge and technical expertise which your contributions are able to generate for the benefit of the people of the Mekong basin, I may also tell you that your kind and effective support has a direct impact on the motivation of our team for addressing this enormous challenge of reducing as much as possible the damages of floods in this very large basin. I cannot be grateful enough to all of you for your help.
I am also particularly grateful for the support and expertise provided this year by several experts from upstream countries, China and Myanmar, our Dialogue Partners, who will share here with us their experiences in their own countries. This is a clear evidence of the concrete steps which are being made in recent years towards increased cooperation between the Mekong River Commission and the upstream countries of the basin.
Before addressing the specific subject of this important forum, let me briefly refer here to the overall goal of our new Strategic Plan 2006-2010. MRC’s five-year goal is to support its member countries to make more effective use of the Mekong’s water and related resources to alleviate poverty while protecting the environment.
In our new strategy supporting our member countries through expertise and technical assistance while strengthening regional cooperation constitute the core business of our river basin organization. And to be an efficient service-oriented and demand-driven organization providing tangible benefit for its member countries, it is of utmost importance to listen to the member countries and to understand their development needs. This is why we will start this forum by listening to country reports of Cambodia, Lao PDR, Thailand and Viet Nam.
This year’s theme of Improving Inputs Towards Medium Term Flood Forecasting and Warning in the Mekong Basin will concentrate on the importance of producing and disseminating good quality timely data.
The 2006 flood was what is classed a “normal” flood. But despite this “normality” there were still dramatic losses to human life and substantial economic losses to land, property and to livestock. Much of this could have been avoided with suitable forecasting activities and flood preparedness. And that requires a much improved system of data exchange and collation.
As land uses change and infrastructures such as roads, dams and water diversions increase there will be more and more areas of the basin which will become vulnerable to floods and we must be aware of the impact this will have on the people, particularly the poor, who will be most affected by these changes.
We must also be aware of the influence that climate change may have on our region. If the global temperatures rise we could see significant changes in flood and drought patterns and it will be up to our technical experts to be up to speed on these meteorological patterns if we are to improve our forecasting methods.
Our member countries have established or are establishing a range of actions to enable them to cope with these changes but they need assistance from us to provide them with the expertise and information they need to plan new settlement areas or at least to identify which may be problem areas. Flood vulnerability mapping is already under way and we hope to be able to provide member states with this information soon.
The MRC’s Flood Management and Mitigation Programme has been in operation for two years now and it is progressing well. All the components are operational and have produced much encouraging early work.
The Regional Flood Management and Mitigation Centre has also produced the second Annual Mekong Flood Report 2006, and this year the report examines not only the flood impacts from the four countries’ perspectives, but puts the flood into a historical context by explaining the hydrological cycle of the Mekong. I hope you will all find it an interesting document and we would be pleased to have your comments so we can continue to improve it every year.
The Regional Flood Management and Mitigation Centre will soon move into its brand new building which has been so generously provided by the government of Japan and last wet season produced daily flood forecasting data which was posted daily on the MRC website, www.mrcmekong.org.
We are grateful to our Dialogue Partner China for the provision of daily hydrological data which enhances our capacity to provide more accurate flood forecasts and we are very pleased that this partnership will be further strengthened in the coming years.
We are now approaching the 2007 flood season and soon
we will be called upon to put this talk into action. On
behalf of the MRCS, I trust everyone will continue to work
in cooperation with each other so we can put the safety
of the people of the basin as our number one priority.
Thank you all for your kind attention