Plans to fight Mekong pollution take shape

Researchers plan to assess plastic waste leakage into the Mekong River system to protect the mighty river.

Government officials and researchers from the four Mekong countries will join forces to assess plastic waste leakage into the Mekong River system.

This will be done to provide information on the current state of plastic pollutants in the region and to offer policy recommendations to address the challenges.

According to a media release by the Mekong River Commission (MRC), an agreement was made at a regional workshop held in Vientiane last month, which was hosted by the MRC Secretariat and United Nations Environment Programme (Unep) Regional Office for Asia and the Pacific.

About 50 government officials and university researchers from Cambodia, Thailand, Vietnam and Laos discussed methodologies to study sources of plastic debris across the Mekong.

According to a study on the export of plastic debris into the sea, published in the journal Environmental Science & Technology in November 2017, the Mekong is one of 10 rivers that collectively carried 88–95% of plastics into the world’s oceans.

There were also other reports on the plastic lifestyle proliferating across Mekong neighbourhoods without basin-wide countermeasures.

The workshop was held as part of Unep’s 10-month long “Counter-MEASURE” project, which ends next month.

“The assessment will provide the four Mekong countries with scientific evidence and information on plastic debris, plastic pollution and its threat to the environment and people, ” said Kakuko Nagatani Yoshida, the Unep Regional Coordinator for Chemicals, Waste and Air Quality, when addressing the workshop.

The assessment will involve monitoring and collecting plastic debris and waste leakage at five sites located in major cities along the Mekong, namely Chiang Rai, Vientiane, Ubon Ratchathani, Phnom Penh and Can Tho, in which four Mekong universities will take the lead.

Funded by the Japanese government, the Counter-MEASURE project (Project on Promotion of Countermeasures Against Marine Plastic Litter in South-East Asia and India) was launched in mid-2019 and is led by the Unep Regional Office for Asia and the Pacific. It aims to study land-based plastic leakage entering waterways such as rivers, canals and drainage channels, into the sea in the Mekong River basin, and in Mumbai and the Ganges River basin in India.

In the Mekong area, the MRC and Unep are implementing the project as part of their larger technical collaboration signed by both parties in December. — Vientiane Times/ANN

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