Opinion / Op-Ed Contributors

Building an Asian community of shared destiny

(China Daily) Updated: 2016-03-23 07:39

Building an Asian community of shared destiny

The Jinghong Hydropower Station will increase water discharges to ease effects of a regional drought. [Photo by Yang Zheng/China Daily]

Last year, six countries through which one of the world's longest rivers runs agreed to establish the Lancang-Mekong Cooperation framework to coordinate development works and promote the well-being of the people living in the subregion. Given the Mekong River's rich biodiversity and the riparian zone's delicate environment, the framework will serve as an additional forum for consultations between upper and lower riparian countries.

China's decision to release water from its Jinghong Dam last week was hailed as a goodwill gesture that augurs well for the LMC meeting in Sanya, south China's Hainan province, on Wednesday when Chinese Premier Li Keqiang is scheduled to meet the leaders from Thailand, Cambodia, Laos, Myanmar and Vietnam.

The current dry season has led to drought in parts of Thailand, Cambodia and Vietnam, where many people depend on agriculture and fishing. For instance, Vietnam's Mekong Delta region is facing severe drought, which has harmed rice and fruit productions.

The discharge of water from Jinghong Dam will continue until April 10, allowing all riparian countries to store water and plan irrigation, as managing their water supplies remains a common annual dilemma for them.

The recent El Nino phenomenon has aggravated the region's water shortage problem, which can be solved only with the cooperation of all stakeholders. The 4,880-kilometer-long river runs through Yunnan province before snaking through Myanmar, Laos, Thailand, Cambodia and Vietnam.

The LMC framework, agreed by the riparian countries in Jinghong, Yunnan province, in November, will focus on political security issues, economic affairs and sustainable development, as well as social affairs and people-to-people exchanges.

Many see the LMC as a mechanism that could promote better understanding and help build trust through information and data sharing, as well as draw all the countries to work together on critical issues such as water management, capacity building and protection of the river's biodiversity.

The LMC frame work meeting in Sanya is likely to discuss wide-ranging issues related to water management, connectivity, capacity building, cross-border economic cooperation, agriculture and poverty alleviation. And given the prevailing situation, there is a possibility that the parties will reach an agreement to dredge the river in order to improve navigation in and strengthen security along the river.

Kavi Chongkittavorn is a veteran journalist based in Bangkok.

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