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International water issues

The Mekong River Commission (MRC) came into existence on 5 April 1995 with an agreement between the governments of Cambodia, Lao People’s Democratic Republic, Thailand and Viet Nam. These four countries signed the “Agreement on the cooperation for the sustainable development of the Mekong river basin” and agreed on the joint management of their shared water resources and development of the economic potential of the river. The MRC has been built on a foundation of nearly 50 years of knowledge and experience in the region, starting in 1957 as the United Nationsfounded Mekong Committee. In 1996, China and Myanmar became Dialogue Partners of the MRC and the countries now work together within a cooperation framework.

The transboundary implications of hydropower projects on water quality and quantity are numerous. The first risk of hydropower project development in the upstream area of the Mekong river is the negative impact on the environment and society. The second type of risk is geo-political, meaning the inevitable dependence of countries that do not possess hydropower upon those who develop hydropower projects. Cambodia is particularly vulnerable because it will certainly increasingly depend on Thailand, Lao People’s Democratic Republic and Viet Nam for its power supply. A cutoff of power supply by power producers would seriously impede any possibility for Cambodia to achieve its development goals and strategies, such as alleviate poverty, improve the population’s livelihood, welcome further foreign investments, sustain tourism development, etc. (WEPA, 2010).


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