Mekong nations plan five-year strategy to fight drought

PHNOM PENH (Xinhua): Ministerial delegates from the Mekong River Commission (MRC) Council approved here on Tuesday (Nov 26) a drought management strategy for 2020-2025, allowing Cambodia, Laos, Thailand and Vietnam to prepare for and manage drought collectively, said a statement from MRC.

The approval was made during the council's annual meeting, the statement said, adding that the council is the highest ministerial body of the MRC composed of water resources and environment ministers from the four member countries.

The approved strategy came as the region is undergoing one of the worst droughts that has brought the Mekong water levels to their lowest points in living memory or at least since the last 60 years, it said.

"As we gear up for drought preparedness and mitigation, this strategy will help us reduce the vulnerability of our people and water resource systems to droughts, improve the adaptive capacity of our governments, and advance our information sharing, forecasting and early warning systems," said Lim Kean Hor, Cambodia's minister of Water Resources and Meteorology.

The minister, who is also the chair of the MRC Council for 2019, added that this strategy is part of the "MRC's ongoing effort to assist its member countries to combat the present and future droughts that have both the national and transboundary impacts."

Recent MRC studies show that drought events in the lower Mekong basin have increased in frequency and severity in the past decades, the statement said, adding that the latest drought in 2016, for example, brought serious economic losses to Thailand, estimated at 1.7 billion U.S. dollars.

The strategy is set to focus on five priority areas that have been assessed as "poorly functioning" and requiring "immediate attention" to address droughts, it said.

They include drought indicator monitoring, which covers ground, soil moisture and crop condition monitoring, and agreed dry season flow monitoring; drought forecasting and early warning; capacity building in drought assessment and planning; mitigation measures; and information sharing systems, the statement said.

It added that the five-year strategy will be implemented with funding from MRC member states and development partners. - Xinhua

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