By The Nation
The annual gathering, “Enhancing Water Partnership towards the Sustainable Development and Inclusive Growth” was hosted September 19-20 by Cambodia National Mekong Committee and discussed key challenges and opportunities around cross-border river basin management.
The 8th Asia-Europe Meeting Sustainable Development Dialogue featured discussions over cooperation in transboundary water management, food and energy security, climate change, and flood and drought issues.
The dialogue brought about 120 participants from river basin networks, academic institutions, public agencies, local and international NGOs, and inter-governmental organisations based in the EU and throughout Asia, including the Mekong region.
“Due to emerging challenges such as climate change and increasing needs for development, while protecting the people’s well-being and the environment, water availability has become a major challenge, demanding our immediate attention and action,” said Lim Kean Hor, the Minister of Water Resources and Meteorology and the CNMC chairman as he opened the Meeting on July 19. “These issues need to be addressed to ensure water resources are managed, conserved and used effectively and sustainably.”
In light of these challenges, the dialogue noted the need to increase joint policy formulation and development planning when it comes to transboundary water partnership and cooperation. This would help ensure synergies and increase opportunities for improved water resources management.
The meeting also agreed it is important for water managers to establish and promote benefit sharing mechanisms in water development and collaboration. It noted such mechanisms would help to balance benefits and costs on a water resources sector-wide scale in the lower Mekong basin in the face of rapid water developments in the region.
The participants found that though the 1995 Mekong Agreement on the Cooperation for sustainable development of the Mekong River Basin had gaps, it provided a sound legal
framework to guide cooperation and management of the Mekong River and related resources.
To increase effective partnerships for water management and development, the attendees suggested river basin organisations make the best use of both emerging and existing cooperation frameworks, including that of the 1995 Mekong Agreement.
Finally, the dialogue recommended that efforts to openly share data and information and to ensure proper coordination of developments should be strengthened because it is one of the key areas to achieving water resource development sustainability.
“A proper coordination between countries in the region and beyond is necessary to avoid or minimise potential transboundary risks and to maximise opportunities,” the chief executive officer of the MRC secretariat, An Pich Hatda, told the gathering. “The development of the shared watercourse must be judicious, fair, reasonable and equitable. It must benefit everyone sharing the river.”
Governments and partners made commitments in line with these challenges and recommendations.
Minister Lim Kean Hor told the meeting that Cambodia is committed to addressing the challenges. “On behalf of the government, I would like to emphasise our firm commitment in supporting and promoting regional and international cooperation and partnership for sustainable water management and development,” he said.
Franck Viault, head of cooperation from a delegation from the EU to Cambodia, said the EU is fully committed to promoting integrated water resources management and effective water governance for long-term stability. “This requires appropriate institutions, reliable data, capacity building, awareness-raising and funding,” he said. “It should foster sustainable water management as well as the consideration of interlinkages with, for instance, energy, food security and ecosystems.”
Zoltan Gyorgy Horvath, the charges d’affaires of the Hungarian Embassy, said, “Hungry is highly devoted to the achievement of the sustainable development goals and believes that the fulfilment of agenda 2030 requires an integrated and comprehensive approach.”
ASEM, comprising 53 partners from across Europe and Asia, is an informal platform for dialogue and cooperation between the two. Its partners represent about 65 per cent of global economy, 60 per cent of global population, 55 per cent of global trade, and 75 per cent of global tourism.
The MRC is an intergovernmental organisation for regional dialogue and cooperation in the lower Mekong river basin, established in 1995 based on the Mekong Agreement between Cambodia, Lao PDR, Thailand and Vietnam. The organisation serves as a regional platform for water diplomacy as well as a knowledge hub of water resources management for the sustainable development of the region.