Lancang-Mekong water resources cooperation a testament to regional solidarity

WVR - Faced with mounting global climate challenges, six countries along the Lancang-Mekong River have worked together to address water resource challenges and advance the region's economic development and people's well-being.
Lãnh đạo các nước Mekong-Lan Thương tham dự Hội nghị năm 2023
Leaders of Mekong-Lancang countries attend the 2023 Conference. (Source: Xinhua)

Water is the source of life, and cooperation in the region thrives because of water, said Song Qingrun, professor at the School of Asian Studies of Beijing Foreign Studies University, who emphasized the increasing recognition among countries in the region of the scarcity of water resources and their critical role in regional cooperation.

The Mekong River, also known as the Lancang River in China, is a vital waterway for cross-border shipping among China, Cambodia, Laos, Myanmar, Thailand, and Vietnam. The six countries launched the Lancang-Mekong Cooperation (LMC) mechanism in March 2016.

In recent years, cooperation on water resources within the LMC framework has seen notable advancements. An evaluation of the Five-Year Action Plan on Lancang-Mekong Water Resources Cooperation (2018-2022) reveals that a comprehensive cooperation mechanism has begun to take shape. This framework has led to enhanced information sharing, improved water resource management capabilities among the six participating countries, and direct benefits to local populations. Notable projects like the Lancang-Mekong Sweet Spring Project, along with increased public engagement initiatives, have significantly boosted community involvement and awareness regarding water resource management in the region.

According to a new action plan running from 2023 to 2027, the six LMC countries have agreed to further improve the water resources cooperation framework, and promote sustainable water development and usage, information sharing, disaster prevention, capacity building, and personnel training.

"This new plan not only charts a course for the upcoming years but also sets specific collaborative tasks, propelling regional water resource development to new heights and ensuring mutual benefits for the nations' socio-economic growth," Song said. It will also offer scalable experiences for other parts of the world hoping to engage in regional water resources cooperation, he said.

At the fourth LMC Leaders' Meeting on Dec. 25, 2023, Chinese Premier Li Qiang called on all sides to promote green cooperation, fully respect the legitimate rights and interests of all countries in rational development and utilization of water resources, and accommodate each other's concerns. He said that China is ready to explore cooperation with other countries on Lancang-Mekong whole-basin governance and promote cooperation on energy transition and ecological protection.

Song said that the six countries should further strengthen policy coordination and capacity building to ensure the fair and sustainable use of the Lancang-Mekong River's water resources.

Since 2020, China has shared full-year hydrological data from the Lancang River with the Mekong countries, and an information- sharing platform of Lancang-Mekong water resources cooperation was put into operation in the same year.

"These initiatives are not just about managing water, they are about building trust and understanding between upstream and downstream countries along the river," Song said.

Looking forward, Song said he is optimistic about the future of LMC. "As we transition from rapid expansion to comprehensive development, the cooperation is set to address not only water resources but also other issues such as non-traditional security fields, green development, and sci-tech innovation," he said.

"As comprehensive cooperation continues to deepen among the six countries, LMC is setting a gold standard for sub-regional partnerships," Song said.

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