Vientiane Times, April 24, 2013
The Mekong Agreement, which Laos, Cambodia, Thailand and Vietnam signed in 1995, aims to promote sustainable development in the region, the Lao National Mekong Committee Secretariat has reaffirmed.
The Secretariat held a seminar on the 1995 Mekong Agreement at the International Cooperation and Training Centre in Vientiane on Monday.
The event enabled reporters, university lecturers and government officials to study the history and goals of the Mekong cooperation framework.
The seminar also marked the 18th anniversary of the Mekong Agreement, which gives legal back-up to the operations of the Mekong River Commission, an international governmental organisation comprised of the Lower Mekong countries.
According to international agreement specialists present at the seminar, the Mekong countries signed the agreement on April 5, 1995, because they realised the need to use the river’s resources in sustainable ways, while pursuing socio-economic development in the region.
The Mekong is one of the longest and cleanest rivers in Asia. It not only supplies fish as food for riparian communities but also has huge potential for the production of hydropower.
This is needed to meet the rapidly growing energy demands in the region, the specialists said.
To ensure sustainable development, the Mekong countries have adopted procedures and rules that member countries have to follow when making decisions on the use of the river’s resources.
The procedures and rules underscore each member country’s sovereign right to use the natural resources within its own territory. However, each country must make sure that it addresses any possible negative impacts of a development project in the river.
Laos is actively complying with the Mekong Agreement in a spirit of neighbourly cooperation. One of the best examples of this is the consultation process undertaken by Laos before deciding to begin construction of the Xayaboury hydropower plant on the Mekong mainstream, the specialists said.
Laos also redesigned the power plant to ensure the effective passage of fish and the release of sediment after neighbouring Mekong countries expressed concerns over the negative impact of the massive dam.
The Lao government has said the structure will not significantly impact on water volume as the run-of-river dam will not have a large reservoir.
It will not be possible for the dam to cause a water shortage downstream. The government views hydropower as a valuable revenue stream that is essential to finance the country’s efforts to relieve poverty.
The government has also committed to develop power plants in sustainable ways. International development partners, including the International Finance Corporation, are providing technical assistance to ensure that Laos develops sustainable dams that both protect the environment and ensure that benefits flow to local communities.