Lao government officials and researchers from the four Mekong countries will join forces to assess plastic waste leakage into the Mekong River system.
This will be done to provide information on the current state of plastic pollutants in the region and offer policy recommendations to address the challenges.
According to a media release from the Mekong River Commission (MRC), an agreement was made at a regional workshop held in Vientiane last month. The event was hosted by the MRC Secretariat and UN Environment Programme (UNEP) Regional Office for Asia and the Pacific.
About 50 government officials and university researchers from Cambodia, Laos, Thailand and Vietnam gathered to discuss assessment methodologies to study plastic debris and its sources across the Mekong.
A study on the export of plastic debris by rivers into the sea, published in the journal Environmental Science & Technology in November 2017, said the Mekong is one of 10 rivers that collectively carry 88-95 per cent of plastics into the world’s oceans.
There were also other reports around the plastic lifestyle that is proliferating across Mekong neighbourhoods without basin-wide countermeasures.
The workshop was held as part of UNEP’s 10-month long “Counter-Measure” project, which ends next month.
“The assessment will provide the four Mekong countries with scientific evidence and information on plastic debris, plastic pollution and its threat to the environment and people,” said Kakuko NagataniYoshida, UNEP Regional Coordinator for Chemicals, Waste and Air Quality, when addressing the workshop.
The assessment will involve monitoring and collecting plastic debris and waste leakage at five sites located in major cities along the Mekong, namely Chiang Rai, Vientiane, Ubon Ratchathani, Phnom Penh and Can Tho, in which four Mekong universities will take the lead.
Funded by the Japanese government, the Counter-Measure project (Project on Promotion of Countermeasures Against Marine Plastic Litter in Southeast Asia and India) was launched in the middle of last year and is led by the UNEP Regional Office for Asia and the Pacific.
It aims to study land-based plastic leakage entering waterways such as rivers, canals and drainage channels, into the sea in the Mekong River basin, and in Mumbai and the Ganges River basin in India.
In the Mekong area, the MRC and UNEP are implementing the project as part of their larger technical collaboration signed by both parties in December.
MRC Secretariat Chief Executive Officer, Dr An Pich Hatda, said the partnership with UNEP comes at the right time, as member states will conduct national reviews on the status and trends of plastic debris, including the legal and institutional framework on plastic pollution management as part of the MRC’s annual work plan for 2020.
“The reviews aim to provide a better picture and understanding of the plastic issues in each of the four countries,” he said, adding that the MRC will formulate a long-term activity to monitor, assess and provide policy recommendations to member countries, using results from the national reviews and Counter-Measure project.
“We hope to incorporate the findings into our next Mekong State of the Basin Report to provide a fuller statement of past trends and present conditions within the basin and to track changes brought about by Mekong cooperation.”
“We also hope to develop a Mekong strategic framework for plastic pollution management and create networks across the four countries for the monitoring and management of plastic pollution in the Mekong,” An said.
VIENTIANE TIMES/ASIA NEWS NETWORK