By SUPALAK GANJANAKHUNDEE
Countries in the Lower Mekong Basin will next week learn how to use their rivers for food and energy security as well as save the environment from the managers of 16 major waterways in Asia, Australia, Africa, Europe and the Americas.
Ministers and senior officials from Cambodia, Laos, Thailand and Vietnam will meet the executives of major rivers such as the Danube, Rhine, Congo, Niger and Nile from May 1-3 Tuesday to Thursday to discuss trans-boundary impact from developments in countries that are within the same basin.
A report on the conference will be sent as a message from the Mekong basin to the Earth Summit 2012 in Rio de Janeiro in June, Water Resource Department director-general Jatuporn Buruspat said.
Prime Minister Yingluck Shinawatra will preside over the meeting, which will be held in Phuket. The agenda will also include the issue of disaster management, in which Thailand will ask other countries in the Mekong basin to provide more information on disaster and surveillance system so disaster management is more effective, Jatuporn said.
The Lower Mekong basin comprises Cambodia, Laos, Thailand and Vietnam, which came together under the Mekong River Commission (MRC).
Myanmar and China, which are in the upper Mekong basin and not members of the MRC, will send representatives to the conference as observers.
Several controversial issues in relation to the basin will be raised at the conference and views exchanged and advice sought from the river managers.
Laos’ controversial Xayaburi hydropower project will be raised to explore the possibilities of balancing the question of food and energy security, Jatuporn said. Laos has granted a concession to a Thai construction company to build the Xayaburi dam on the Mekong mainstream to generate electricity, which will be sold to Thailand.
However, residents and conservationists from provinces along the Mekong River are opposed to the construction of the dam because they say it will hurt the fishing business and pose a threat to their livelihoods. The group is scheduled to rally in Phuket on Tuesday.
At a meeting in Siem Reap, Cambodia, in December, the MRC council agreed to hold off the Xayaburi project for further study as countries downstream, such as Cambodia and Vietnam, are worried about its impact on the environment.
However, Laos is unlikely to stop the construction on grounds that the dam would be situated 150 kilometres downstream of Luang Prabang.