The Mekong River Commission (MRC) has secured almost US$13 million in grants over five years from the governments of Australia, Germany and Switzerland.

In a statement, the MRC said the funds would help Cambodia, Laos, Thailand and Vietnam “respond to pressing challenges while safeguarding the ecological function of the Mekong River and improving people’s livelihoods.”

The statement said the Lower Mekong Basin faced “multiple threats” as the MRC started implementing its strategic plan for 2021 to 2025.

“This support is timely and crucial to the MRC in implementing activities that balance the demands of economic development, social improvement, and protection of the environment,” MRC Chief Executive Dr. An Pich Hatda said on the sidelines of a signing ceremony in Vientiane on Thursday.

The Australian grant — part of a new Mekong-Australia Partnership — is equivalent to US$3.8 million over five years.

H.E. Paul Kelly, the Australian Ambassador to Laos, said Canberra hoped the grant would enable “inclusive and sustainable use of water and related resources of the Mekong” and contribute to economic recovery.

Australia is also providing technical support including the MRC Flood and Drought Management Centre in Phnom Penh as well as the commission’s data and information systems.

Germany’s grant is equivalent to US$3.6 million over three years with US$1.2 million for core MRC funding and the rest for a MRC–GIZ technical support programme.

“This funding will help the MRC establish the core river monitoring network in the Mekong region, thus contributing to informing decisions over the development and management of water resources and to boosting the MRC’s ability to manage flood and drought risks more effectively,” said H.E. Jens Lütkenherm, the German Ambassador.

Switzerland committed US$5.3 million over five years through the Swiss Agency for Development and Cooperation.

“We congratulate the MRC on launching the new visionary strategies that are critical to the Mekong River Basin,” said Mr. Jean-François Cuénod, the agency’s regional director.

He said Switzerland looked forward to working with the MRC, member countries and development partners “in shifting the region towards a more sustainable and resilient path, making sure that no one will be left behind.”

The MRC statement said the five-year strategy would ensure new power plans “consider the full range of viable generation sources, including water-food-energy as well as the complementary use of wind and solar energy.”

The strategy will also promote gender diversity, equity, and inclusion in the water sector.

In addition, the MRC will explore coordinating the operations of water infrastructure throughout the basin “to maximise their benefits and limit adverse environmental impacts on the Mekong mainstream and people.”

At the same time, the MRC will continue to foster regional dialogue among the four member countries and “deepen its engagement” with China and other partners throughout ASEAN and the Lancang-Mekong Cooperation initiative, which also includes China and Myanmar.

The statement said the new plan was a “paradigm shift” enabling Mekong countries to address challenges while improving the state of the basin in the coming decade.”

Source: Agency Kampuchea Press

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