Mekong River Commission Secretariat

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Fourteenth Dialogue Meeting
Mekong River Commission

Statement by
Dr. Saksit Tridech
Permanent Secretary, Ministry of Natural Resources and Environment
Vice-Chairman of Thai National Mekong Committee
Member of the MRC Joint Committee for Thailand
Chairman of the MRC Joint Committee 2008/2009

Vientiane, Lao PDR
28 July2009

H.E. Mr. Pich Dun
Vice-Chairman, Cambodia National Mekong Committee
Member of the MRC Joint Committee for Cambodia

Mme. Monemany Nhoybouakong
Permanent Secretary, Water Resources & Environment Administration
Lao National Mekong Committee Secretariat
Member of the MRC Joint Committee for the Lao PDR
Chairperson of the MRC Joint Committee for 2009/2010

Dr. Le Duc Trung
Secretary General, Viet Nam National Mekong Committee
Member of the MRC Joint Committee for Viet Nam

Distinguished Delegates of Dialogue Partners, Development Partners and International Agencies
Excellencies, ladies and gentlemen
Colleagues and friends

I am very pleased to see you all here and address you in one of my final tasks as Chairman of the MRC Joint Committee for 2008/2009.

I wish to extend a warm welcome to all the dignitaries present – who have taken time out of their busy schedules to come to this meeting – which is not only important for the MRC as an organization - but for the region and the people that rely on sustainable water resource management of the basin’s resources.

I would particularly like to thank the governments of China and Myanmar for being here – along with some of our Development Partners.

My time as Chairman was very eventful.

2008 and 2009 were at times challenging - not only for the MRC but also for the basin as a whole.

The most dramatic event was the August flood at the beginning of my tenure. It was the worst in over 30 years for areas in Northern Lao PDR and Thailand, and caused an estimated US$ 135 million worth of damage to property and crops, and livelihoods.

The flooding put the MRC in the public eye. The website received a massive spike in hits as people turned to us to provide them with flood forecasts.

However, the August flooding also highlighted that there is still a big need to improve our services and build capacity in the region for mitigating the effects of floods and responding to them.

It was a learning experience for the organisation – and I am pleased to say that the FMMP has acted on the recommendations for improving its forecasting system. The need for the flash flood guidance system now being developed is evident.

This year's flood season is nearly upon us – and it remains to be seen as to whether or not those recommendations will have an impact on how flooding forecasting is handled this year. But I must say - I am positive.

I was also positive to see that our Dialogue Partner China has offered to play a role in the learning process and the FMMP will be visiting the Flood Control Offices of the Yangtze River Water Resources Commission in mid October for a study tour. I am sure that this will be a valuable visit. This builds on cooperation with China in the area of navigation and the joint workshop in Jinghong last year.

The MRC has also taken steps last year to allow greater community involvement in stakeholder dialogue and participation in decision-making processes.

Among other initiatives - the multi-stakeholder consultation on hydropower in September last year built on earlier efforts of the BDP. A strategy for further increasing stakeholder participation and communication has also been written.

The issue that set the MRC apart in 2008 and 2009 – and will probably continue to spark public debate in coming years is the issue of hydropower - particularly the proposed mainstream dams on the Lancang/Mekong in China and the proposed 11 hydropower schemes on the river in Cambodia, Lao PDR and Thailand.

The MRC has taken several steps to become a facilitator of dialogue on hydropower issues. The Initiative for Sustainable Hydropower started work last year – and has rapidly set in motion a Strategic Environmental Assessment of the proposed mainstream dams – engaging expertise from the region and around the world to understand the potential impacts of hydropower on fisheries, sediment management and navigation – and mitigation measures. This information will form the basis for the formal process of prior consultation on proposed mainstream hydropower projects required under the 1995 Mekong Agreement.

The SEA has already begun to open the public debate on Mekong hydropower wider than it has ever been before with, among other things, a forum for public submissions through the MRC website.

I am sure that a focus on sustainable hydropower – with respect to the potential impact on the environment and eco-system, will become one of our core issues in the next few years.

The drive to provide greater access to information has been taking place both centrally and at programme level in the last year. The Environment Programme signed an MOU with the regional arm of the Global Change System for Analysis, Research and Training to cooperate on activities related to climate change and adaptation.

Climate change is also set to become one of our core issues and the Climate Change and Adaptation Initiative began to be formulated last year to respond to this.

Cooperation with our Dialogue Partners continues to improve – with moves to improve hydro-metrological data – as well as initiatives to increase the amount of other information available , such as information on dam operations.

Sound financial management of the organisation has continued over the last year. I am pleased to see that Member Countries have continued to strengthen their commitment to increasing financial contributions – as the MRC continues on a path to increased financial ownership. Likewise – the Development Partners have continued to provide support for the MRC and its work – with many being additionally generous with support during the August flood. The increasing role of the organisation in a range of new areas – such as the Initiative on Sustainable Hydropower will be crucial to this donor support.

I would like to take this opportunity to thank those that have supported the MRC throughout my tenure as Joint Committee Chairman.

The distinguished members of the Joint Committee deserve thanks for their support and cooperation – as do all staff of the Secretariat for their positive work and the effective implementation of their duties.

My year in this job has been one of changes, challenges and possibilities for the MRC. However, the organisation continues to play an important role in promoting sustainable development and it will remain relevant for many years to come.

If the MRC wants to achieve the goals that it has set for itself, I think it is very important that the organisation continues to increase its commitment to transparency, which will be vital in efforts to gain more donor funding; increase the cooperation between the Development Partners, Dialogue Partners, and regional organisations, such as ASEAN and the GMS – and importantly – use our imagination and increase the range of areas in which cooperation occurs; and lastly – to continue with the process of riparianisation – we have made much progress on this area and it is important to the future of the MRC that we continue to do so.

With this – I would like to relinquish the Chair of the MRC Joint Committee to Mme. Monemany Nhoybouakong of Lao PDR. I wish her well in the role – and extend my sincere congratulations to her.

The MRC Joint Committee is in her very capable hands.




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