Wed, 14 Apr 2021

Washington [US], March 1 (ANI): Raising concerns over the dipping water-levels of the Mekong River and upstream dams in China, Principal Deputy Assistant Secretary of State for East Asian and Pacific Affairs Ambassador Atul Keshap points out that upstream dams in China that exacerbate droughts are hurting the communities and ecosystems that have relied for countless generations on the Mekong River's natural flood pulse.

Speaking at the Indo-Pacific conference on Strengthening Transboundary River Governance, Keshap on Saturday (local time) said the conference report launched at the event is excellent and summarizes our work examining the challenges facing the Mekong River basin and its ties to the economies, livelihoods, and culture of nearly 70 million people.

"We remain concerned just as we were in October during the conference--that record droughts and the upstream dams in China that exacerbate them are hurting the communities and ecosystems that have relied for countless generations on the Mekong River's natural flood pulse," he said as reported by the Frontier Post.

During his address, the diplomat noted that are dramatic consequences for food security, economic development, and the environment.

"It's clear that upstream dams are withholding water with limited coordination or notification, unnecessarily exacerbating the water security challenges that Mekong communities are facing," he said.

Highlighting the Mekong River Commission (MRC), he stated that last week MRC again issued calls for China to share timely and essential water data. This was in response to what the MRC called recent "worrying" drops in Mekong River water levels.

"The United States and our partners developed the Mekong Dam Monitor to better provide information on water usage. Upstream dam operators need to be more transparent and consultative with downstream neighbours," the diplomat said.

The diplomat remarked that the MRC statement cited Beijing's agreement in 2020 to share year-round water level and rainfall data and to notify the MRC of any abnormal rise or fall in water levels. It's clear that China has not lived up to this commitment, said Keshap.

He further said that the US has supported the Mekong River Commission for decades and remains committed to sharing our expertise and working with you to preserve the autonomy of the Mekong region.

Moreover, the diplomat stated that the United States is committed to following through on the ideas discussed at the conference and in this report. We support the people of the Mekong and the future of the Mekong River.

Since 2009, the United States has invested over USD 3.5 billion of assistance in the countries of the Mekong, including, USD 1.2 billion for health programs, USD 734 million for economic growth, USD 616 million for peace and security, USD 527 million for human rights and governance, USD million for education and social services and USD 165 million for humanitarian assistance.

Keshap further added that last year, they had launched the Mekong-US Partnership to broaden, deepen, and better resource our collaboration.

Through the Mekong-US Partnership, the United States is partnering with Cambodia, Laos, Burma, Thailand and Vietnam on solutions to emerging challenges, including transboundary resource management, regional economic connectivity and human resources development, and non-traditional security issues like health security, and narcotics, weapons, wildlife and human trafficking, reported The Frontier Post.

Keshap also expressed commitment to work under Mekong Water Data Initiative to improve water data sharing, including support for the Mekong Dam Monitor. He also remarked that US is empowering the skill and talent of the people of the Mekong through programs like the new Young Southeast Asian Leaders Initiative Academy at Fulbright University Vietnam and Young Scientists Program. (ANI)

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