Sustainable pathways needed for water-secure Asean region – Khmer Times

The inaugural Association of Southeast Asian Nations (Asean) and Mekong River Commission (MRC) Water Security Dialogue held last week has tabled three thematic solutions related to policy, technology, and partnership that can help countries in the Mekong and broader Asean address existential water security challenges that confront the region.
The two-day dialogue held last Thursday and Friday was hosted by the MRC Secretariat in cooperation with the Asean Secretariat with designated meeting hubs in Mekong countries. Delegates from other Asean countries participated online due to Covid restrictions.
MRC Joint Committee acting chairperson for 2021,  Phonepaseuth Phouliphanh said that in the midst of changing weather and hydrological regimes globally, there is a growing urgency for sustainable pathways to ensure a water-secure region.
“It requires leadership, innovation, and strategic collaboration among regional countries and their partners,” he said.
At the policy level, he added that senior officials and experts urged all parties and actors to promote greater transparency and deeper engagement to boost sustainable management of water and related resources throughout the Asean region.
Phouliphanh said delegates also suggested pursuing engagement with a broad range of institutions and the greater use of public-private partnerships as deeper engagement with the private sector can support Asean governments to access new technologies while stronger regional cooperation will facilitate a mutual exchange of Integrated Water Resources Management expertise and encourage sustainable investments.
ASEAN for ASEAN Socio-Cultural Community deputy secretary-general Kung Phoak said that the protection of the region’s water resources has historically been an integral part of Asean’s work over the years.
Kung highlighted the value of promoting regional cooperation and strengthening linkages among Asean countries to tackle emerging water issues that include equitable access to safe and affordable water supply, sufficient water to ensure food security to support the region’s economies, and sustained solutions that mitigate water-related hazards.
According to MRC, more than 70 million people depend partly or entirely on the Mekong River as a source of income and life. But pressing transboundary issues have reached a critical juncture in many parts of the wider Asean region that requires deeper and stronger regional unity to close development gaps. Recent modelling by the MRC on the impact of regional development revealed environmental degradation has worsened over the more than 25 years since the MRC was founded.
The First ASEAN-MRC Water Security Dialogue was built on the cooperation framework between Asean and the MRC signed in 2018. The MRC Secretariat and Lower Mekong countries, in cooperation with Asean member states, are committed to achieving the objectives of the 1995 Mekong Agreement and the Asean vision for water security by 2025 through strengthened cooperation and coordination.
While the first dialogue focused on technical exchanges and solutions among Asean policymakers and experts, the second ASEAN-MRC Water Security Dialogue scheduled for 2023 may focus on policy discussions that include a broader range of stakeholders.
Water security in the Mekong and ASEAN key to a safe and sustainable future
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