Vientiane Times, August 29, 2013
Negative environmental impacts of development projects in the Mekong Basin may be reduced if decision makers in the concerned countries comply with the basin development strategy, according to expert commentators.
Chief Executive Officer of the Mekong River Commission (MRC) Secretariat, Mr Hans Guttman, made the comment in an interview with Vientiane Times on the sidelines of the ongoing 38th meeting of the MRC Joint Committee, which opened in Vientiane yesterday.
“In general, when you’re talking about natural resource use, any large project will have large impacts. Now whether those impacts outweigh the positive ones is partially a question of how it is being implemented and the precautions being taken,” Mr Guttman said.
The basin development strategy which was adopted by the four MRC member countries defines the development opportunities and associated risks, and identifies considerable potential for further hydropower development on the Mekong’s tributaries, particularly in Laos and Cambodia, while requiring proper social and environmental standards to ensure sustainability.
According Mr Guttman, different groups are not at odds with each other because they don’t believe each other’s scientific information, but have different opinions about what should be of higher value. This is often a classic development dilemma, which happens all over the world, he said.
Mr Guttman said the use of natural resources is necessary for income generation and other social benefits and lifting people from poverty, adding that despite the fact that impacts are unavoidable, the thinking should be about how much impact is acceptable.
He admitted that rapid development could not be pursued without negative impacts, but said a balance with social acceptability needs to be found.
He commented that despite the fact there was disagreement and different viewpoints regarding development, discussion and dialogue are the only way to raise understanding of each other’s standpoints and compromise with each other in some areas of development.
The two-day meeting ends today and is attended by the Secretary General of the Lao National Mekong Committee, Ms Monemany Nhoybuakong. Participants are discussing the progress of various programmes such as the integrated water resources management-based basin development strategy and procedures, and the reports on actions taken by various divisions within the MRC.