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Mekong River data sharing key to impact measurement

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Fishing boats on the Mekong River in Phnom Penh in January of last year. Heng Chivoan

Mekong River data sharing key to impact measurement

Minister of Water Resources and Meteorology Lim Kean Hor has requested that Mekong River water data be shared to accurately measure the impact of the river’s flow on the social and economic wellbeing of the region.

The request came as he met with Anoulak Kittikhoun, the Mekong River Commission (MRC) CEO, on March 2 as he visited Cambodia and Vietnam to speak face-to-face with top officials about Mekong cooperation.

According to the MRC press release on March 14, Kean Hor articulated the need to monitor and share more hydrological data, to accurately gauge how low or high water flow is affecting the region’s socio-economic wellbeing.

To provide a clearer picture, it said China began sharing its dry-season data in 2020.

“With more data, over a longer period of time, we can establish clear trends, anticipate future patterns and implement an effective early-warning system.With common understanding, we can take more impactful short and medium-term measures,” Kean Hor said in the press release.

Beyond a desire to deepen regional and international partnership, a crucial priority is to expand efforts to monitor and measure how economic development, water-infrastructure projects and climate change – including increases in both floods and droughts – affect the many millions who dwell in the Lower Mekong River Basin, the press statement said.

It added that to better protect Southeast Asia’s largest waterway, the MRC is now making the rounds of the region to hear directly from member countries about their priorities – and especially to minimise growing threats to lives and livelihoods.

Anoulak, the MRC’s first Laotian CEO, said: “These open discussions will help me implement a more impactful programme of work for the basin, closely aligned with regional and national priorities.We must be innovative, as the MRC evolves into a strong regional player equipped with modern technology and state-of-the-art knowledge, providing timely services to the countries and their peoples,” Anoulak said.

The MRC is comprised of the four countries that directly benefit from Mekong-related developments – Cambodia, Laos, Thailand and Vietnam – as well as special status for the two northern neighbours upriver, China and Myanmar. Each of the six has its own national interests, specific priorities and unique challenges, making cooperation complex but rewarding.

Ro Vannak, co-founder of the Cambodian Institute for Democracy, told The Post on March 14 that the Mekong River was at the heart of the political geography of Southeast Asia in the US-China rivalry. The Mekong River became the centre of the strategies of the superpowers due to economic and geopolitical factors.

“What is the most prominent is the importance of the Mekong region’s growth and its geographical location – adjacent to the geopolitical hotspots of the South China Sea and the Straits of Malacca,” he said.

“China’s growing activities in the region mean that we know that the Mekong has become a controversial intersection between the West and China, who are competing to influence the countries along its banks for mutual benefit,” Vannak added.

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