Second regional workshop
Phnom Penh, 17/18 October 2002
Chanthavong Saignasith, Officer In Charge, Mekong River Commission
Distinguished Guests and Participants,
Ladies and Gentlemen
It is my greatest pleasure to join his Excellency Minister Mok Mareth
in welcoming you all to this Regional Workshop. It is the second meeting
of this kind. The first Regional Workshop was organized here early this
year, where the representatives of the four national review teams, advisory
group and people involved in the Protected Area and Development met to
share lesson learnt and take stock the result of the field study, as well
as to identify and prioritize key issues.
I am very pleased to note that this exercise to review Protected Areas
and Development in the Lower Mekong Region is contributing to the development
of a meaningful and broad-based coordination and partnership among various
key stakeholders. I highly appreciate the most active contribution and
insight from the members of the national review teams representing Cambodia,
Laos PDR, Thailand and Vietnam respectively. My high appreciation and
due acknowledge also go to the International Center for Environment and
Management, the International Union for Conservation of Nature (IUCN),
the World Wide Fund for Nature (WWF), UNDP, the Australian NSW National
Parks and Wildlife Services, and the Birdlife International for their
valuable technical support and contribution to this important undertaking.
The Review of the Protected Areas and Development is made possible by
the contribution from the Governments of the MRC member-states, and the
financial technical support from the Danish Development Agency (Danida),
Australian Agency for International Development (Ausaid), Asian Development
Bank, and Swiss Agency for Development and Cooperation (SDC). Allow me
to extend my highest appreciation and gratitude, on behalf of the Mekong
River Commission, to our donors for their valuable support and cooperation.
Ladies and Gentlemen
The Mekong River Commission is an organization whose charter is driven
by a mandate for cooperation that hopes to ensure the sustainable development,
utilization, management and conservation of natural assets of immense
value the Mekong River Basin. Such a mandate is complex and multifaceted.
This task can be simple if it is driven by appropriate knowledge of the
complex, diverse and exceptionally rich resources within the region, the
expectation of its people for improved livelihoods, the need for access
to natural resources so that people might feed their families and resource
themselves and their communities. And from a country perspective - a demand
for improved infrastructure and socio-economic growth that will bring
prosperity to a developing region. These are indeed the imperatives behind
the mandate of the Mekong River Commission, which requires a strategic,
long term and sustainable approach to development.
At more that 4,300 kilometers long, the Mekong River is one of the world's
great rivers, it is the Southeast Asia's largest single natural resource,
and it is a major supplier of food and water for millions. With a total
basin population of approximately 73 million, the Lower Basin is home
to more than 60 million people. Over the past 30 years, the population
of the Lower Mekong Basin, encompassing Cambodia, Lao PDR, Thailand and
Viet Nam, has doubled. By 2025, the population is expected to reach more
than 100 million. Three quarters of the people earn their living from
agriculture and fishing - occupations that account for 50 percent of the
Lower Basin's GDP. Population pressure is placing increasing stress on
already low living standards and food security, and exacerbating poverty.
There is a great need for significant investment in agriculture, rural
development, education and basic health to increase employment, combat
poverty and raise living standards.
The pressure on the environment and the regions natural resources is
increasing dramatically, as is the demand for additional food, water and
energy. It is well known that such expediential growth puts untenable
pressure on the environment and gives rise to conflict at all levels.
All of these fundamental issues expose the need for a commitment to development
that expects sound management of the environment and facilitation of decision
making which has the potential to have long-term effect on the sustainability
of the region.
To date the Mekong River Commission has approached this responsibility
with a complex range of programmes that target the individual components
of the Basin's needs. Basin Development Plan is of them.
An understanding of the Basin Development Process (BDP) is an understanding
of MRC's approach to sustainable development of this region. BDP is indeed
MRC's flagship and one that is being developed in accordance with the
new vision of the Mekong cooperation. A vision that exemplifies MRC's
commitment to promoting, supporting and coordinating the development of
the full potential of sustainable benefits to all riparian countries,
consistent with the need to protect, prevent and enhance the environmental
and aquatic conditions and maintenance of the ecological balance of the
Mekong River Basin.
Ladies and Gentlemen,
At the Mekong River Commission, we use the slogan Meeting the Needs -
Keeping the Balance. Six words couldn't be more simple and more complex.
The challenge, of course for MRC and all of us, is to find that elusive
balance between social and economic development and the sustainability
of the people and environment on which it depends. We cannot forget that
the population of the basin has doubled over the past 30 years and is
estimated to grow another 30 to 50 percent in just another 25 years. And
that this growing population will dramatically increase the pressure on
the basin's resources as demand increases for food, water and energy.
The solutions to the issues of sustainable development are complex and
multifaceted. But the solutions can be found.
At the MRC, we are pursuing this through addressing the many issues in
parallel. Through taking a basin wide and transboundary approach. Through
the development of the representative forums through which transparent
and cooperative dialogue can take place. By bringing together our decision
makers and facilitating their co-operation and dialogue. And by constantly
improving the policies and agreements, which guide the decision making.
Today meeting is part and parcel of our efforts towards that goal. I
sincerely hope the outcome from this Review Process of the Protected Area
and Development will significantly contribute to the BDP process and open
up a forum where the point of views of various development sectors and
conservation efforts will be shred and taken into serious consideration
in the BDP process.
I would like to conclude my remark by urging all participants to actively
and constructively contribute to the achievement of the objectives set
for this regional workshop. I am grateful to his Excellency Minister for
his invaluable leadership and support to the sustainable development.
Thank you. For your kind attention.
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Review of protected areas and their role in socio-economic development
in the four countries of the lower Mekong River region
page updated: 28/10/02