The First Summit of the Mekong River Commission (MRC) takes place in Hua Hin, Thailand, on 5 April 2010 to gather regional Prime Ministers, political leaders, MRCs Dialogue Partners, the People’s Republic of China and the Union of Myanmar, its Development Partners and a range of experts in the field of transboundary water resources management. This event marks the 15th Anniversary of the Mekong River Commission and will serve to reaffirm at the highest level, political commitment of Member Countries to the mission of the MRC.
To “set the stage” for the Summit from an international perspective, and to highlight the challenges facing international river basins organizations such as the MRC, a two-day International Conference has preceded the Summit during 2-3 April 2010. This Conference has addressed the theme “Transboundary Water Resources Management in a Changing World” by bringing together about 300 representatives from the Mekong, other international river basins in the world1, international organizations, water professionals and representatives of media from the region to present, discuss and share their experiences and concerns, and recommend ways in which to address them through improved joint water resources development and management.
This summary of the International Conference, to be presented to political leaders gathered at the MRC Summit, summarizes the key messages of the two days of discussions, as synthesized and presented on behalf of the Conference Chair by Dr. Saksit Tridech, Joint Committee Member for Thailand.
The overall message from the Conference is clear: our economic, social and environmental prosperity depends on how we protect and share the benefits of our common water resources through cooperative mechanisms such as the MRC. Water is life, and our increasing demands for food and energy depends on our ability to work together to develop and manage this precious resource, while protecting the unique environment of our river basins upon which millions of people and other living creatures depends for their daily living.
The Conference also sends a strong reminder that the challenge of adapting to the expected impacts of climate change on our water resources, in the form of increased floods and droughts in the basins, and sea level rise in the deltas, stress the urgency for joint and collaborative action - now - to manage our waters even better.
Water quality issues are a key driver for increased focus on river basin management. International experience shows that the reinstatement of water quality takes considerable time and is more costly than prevention by managing waste water discharges and preventing pollution and spills.
Transparent access to current and accurate water resources information throughout the basin is essential. Monitoring of rainfall, flows and water quality is a prequisite for building cooperation. Data needs to be shared for transboundary cooperation to develop effectively.
The “water sector” cannot address these challenges alone. Access to and protection of water resources are vital for all forms of economic activity, for poverty reduction and for environmental protection, calling for cooperation between all sectors and stakeholders with leadership by the highest levels of government.
Specifically, in addressing the challenges of sustainable food and energy production in transboundary basins the Conference highlights:
In summarizing the implications of these challenges for trans-boundary river basins organizations in a changing world the Conference had the following messages:
The Conference has demonstrated the standing and convening power of the MRC as an internationally recognized example of how countries can work together in managing their joint water resources, not least over the past 15 years since the 1995 Mekong Agreement. At this Conference the MRC has been a provider and a recipient of knowledge and inspiration in dialogue with other major river basins of the world.
In order to address future challenges of meeting increased demands for food and energy production in shared basins, such as the Mekong, under increasing stress due to climate change and other drivers of change, the Conference recognizes the need for taking the Mekong cooperation to the highest political level. The gathering at this first MRC Summit of the highest political leaders of the Mekong countries is both a manifestation of this necessity, and an opportunity to reaffirm political commitment to the MRC at the highest level and agree on required actions.
1 The following transboundary river basins have been represented: The Americas - Columbia, La Plata, Amazon; Europe - Danube, Rhine; Africa ? Lake Victoria, Zambezi/SADC, Orange?Senqu, Senegal; Asia - Mekong, Yangtze