The Ministry of Water Resources (MWR) of the People’s Republic of China will host the Ministerial Meeting of Lancang-Mekong Water Resources Cooperation in Beijing on December 17, 2019. Focusing on the theme “Enhancing Water Partnership for Sustainable Development,” the meeting will facilitate exchanges on water governance policies and experiences of the countries in the Lancang-Mekong River Basin, review the progress of their cooperation in water resources, develop an outlook on the orientation and priorities of Lancang-Mekong water resources cooperation, and adopt a joint statement along with other outcomes. The meeting will mark the first gathering of the ministers of water resources from the six countries along the Lancang-Mekong River. It is a concrete action taken by the ministers to implement the decisions of the two Lancang-Mekong Cooperation summits, and therefore will serve as a guide towards more in-depth and pragmatic Lancang-Mekong water resources cooperation.
To help the general public across the world gain a better understanding of Lancang-Mekong water resources cooperation and pool strengths to support such cooperation, China Report ASEAN interviewed Mr. Yu Xingjun, Senior Counsel at the Department of International Cooperation, Science and Technology of the MWR and Chinese leader of the Joint Working Group for Lancang-Mekong Water Resources Cooperation (Joint Working Group) regarding the developments and achievements of Lancang-Mekong water resources cooperation.
Lancang-Mekong Cooperation (LMC) mechanism was born of water and prioritizes water conservation. The two LMC summits both proposed enhancing cooperation in sustainable utilization and management of water resources in the Lancang-Mekong Region.
China Report ASEAN: The LMC mechanism was inaugurated in March 2016. In your opinion, what was the original intention of the six countries in establishing this mechanism?
Yu Xingjun: As a saying goes, “Those nurtured by the same river are closely linked in their destiny.” China and the five Mekong countries — Cambodia, the Laos, Myanmar, Thailand and Vietnam — are linked by mountains and rivers and connected in cultures and customs. Our traditional friendship passes down from generation to generation. We are natural partners and friendly close neighbors. The six countries jointly established the LMC, a sub-regional cooperation mechanism, in order to promote socioeconomic development of the countries in the sub-region, improve the well-being of their people, narrow the development gap between the five Mekong countries and other ASEAN countries, support the building of the ASEAN Community, promote the implementation of the UN 2030 Agenda for Sustainable Development, and facilitate South-South cooperation.
China Report ASEAN: What is the role of water resources in LMC?
Yu Xingjun: The LMC mechanism was born of water. Water is the mother of all beings, the key to survival, and the source of civilization. Sustainable use of water resources is crucial to sustainable socioeconomic development of the LMC countries. All the six LMC countries are developing countries, at least for now. To develop the economy and improve people’s livelihood is a shared goal of the governments and a common aspiration of the people of the six countries. The six LMC countries, especially the five Mekong countries, are all faced with marked impacts of the monsoon climate, uneven intra- and inter-annual distribution of precipitation, relatively backward water infrastructure, and frequent floods and droughts. These problems not only threaten flood control security, water supply security, food security and ecological security, but will also become the major deficiencies constraining sustainable socioeconomic development of the region. As such, they have aroused close attention from the governments and people of the six countries. Addressing these acute water problems requires not only the efforts of each individual country but also the cooperation of all six countries in the sub-region. Therefore, tackling regional water challenges for common prosperity and sustainable development of the six countries constitutes the strategic basis for Lancang-Mekong water resources cooperation.
China Report ASEAN: During the two LMC summits, what requirements did the leaders put forward for water resources cooperation?
Yu Xingjun: Because water resources play a fundamental and strategic role in economic and social development, the LMC summits attached great importance to the sustainable management and utilization of water resources. The Sanya Declaration, adopted at the first LMC Summit in March 2016, identified water cooperation as one of the five priority areas of LMC and proposed to strengthen cooperation in the sustainable management and utilization of water resources among the LMC countries through various activities. In January 2018, the Second LMC Summit adopted the Phnom Penh Declaration, calling on the LMC countries to boost cooperation in the sustainable management and utilization of water resources, build capacity for water management, enhance emergency response to floods and droughts, and give full play to the supporting roles of the Lancang-Mekong Water Resources Cooperation Forum and the Lancang-Mekong Water Resources Cooperation Center. It is worth particular mentioning that at the Second LMC Summit, Chinese Premier Li Keqiang put forward proposals for effectively implementing water cooperation and reinforcing production capacity cooperation in areas such as the construction of water facilities.
Lancang-Mekong water cooperation conforms to the trends of our time — peaceful development, mutual benefit and win-win. It also reflects the political will of the leaders and echoes the concerns of the people of the six countries. Therefore, it enjoys broad development prospects.
The water sectors of the six countries have worked hard with shared minds and concerted efforts to advance practical cooperation step by step. Lancang-Mekong water cooperation is entering a period of growth at a solid pace.
China Report ASEAN: It has been more than three years since the inception of the LMC mechanism in 2016. What progress has been made in Lancang-Mekong water cooperation over the past three years?
Yu Xingjun: Since the launch of the LMC over three years ago, the six countries have made substantial strides forward in water cooperation. Major developments include:
First, the ministers of water resources of the six countries attach great importance to Lancang-Mekong water resources cooperation. Their frequent mutual visits and effective policy dialogue have built consensus on cooperation in a constant manner. The upcoming Ministerial Meeting of Lancang-Mekong Water Resources Cooperation is a continuation of such efforts and will lead the water policy dialogue among the six countries to a new height.
Second, we have jointly formulated the Five-Year Action Plan for Lancang-Mekong Water Resources Cooperation (2018-2022), identifying the main objectives, guiding principles, patterns and six major areas of cooperation in the coming years. The plan serves as the guiding document for future Lancang-Mekong water resources cooperation.
Third, we have set up the Joint Working Group for Lancang-Mekong Water Resources Cooperation, which effectively plays the role of a coordination body for decision making in water resources cooperation. So far, the Joint Working Group has held three annual meetings and five ad hoc meetings.
Fourth, the first Mekong-Lancang Water Resources Cooperation Forum was held, where we established an exchange platform for water cooperation in the Lancang-Mekong Region, published the Kunming Initiative, built the consensus on cooperation and enhanced mutual trust and understanding among the six countries. In the future, the six countries will continue to hold the forum on a regular basis.
Fifth, we have carried out extensive technical exchanges and cooperation in human resources development. Up to now, 40 batches of personnel (1,000 people-times) from the Mekong countries have participated in Lancang-Mekong technical exchange and training programs on water resources. Among them, nearly 100 candidates from Mekong countries, including officials from water institutions and university students, have joined the “LMC” High-level Water Talents Program, seeking master’s degrees at prestigious water-related universities such as Hehai University in China.
Sixth, we have jointly implemented a group of practical cooperation projects. The six countries have executed more than 30 practical water-related cooperation projects and put forward a list of projects for Lancang-Mekong water cooperation. Safe drinking water and dam safety were identified as priorities for cooperation in the near future.
Seventh, we have strengthened data and information sharing and jointly tackled droughts in the basin. For 17 years in a row, China has provided the Mekong River Commission with hydrological data on the Lancang River during the flood season and timely reports on the scheduling and operation of upstream hydropower stations in case of emergency, all free of charge. At the same time, China directly informs the five Mekong countries of flood regimes and cooperates with them in the joint assessment of flood and drought situations in the Mekong River Basin.
Eighth, the Lancang-Mekong Water Resources Cooperation Center has been established in China. The center actively supports the six countries to cooperate in technical exchanges, research, information sharing and capacity building. All the six countries have rendered strong support to the development of the center, dispatching their experts to the center for short-term work. The center will sign a memorandum of understanding with the Mekong River Commission Secretariat to jointly provide technical support for Lancang-Mekong water cooperation.
Ninth, we have actively expanded the Lancang-Mekong water partnership network by cooperating with other sub-regional cooperation mechanisms such as the Mekong River Commission as well as international organizations such as the World Bank, the Asian Development Bank, the International Water Management Institute (IWMI) and Global Water Partnership (GWP).
The water sectors of the six countries will work with relevant stakeholders to deepen and strengthen practical Lancang-Mekong water cooperation under the guiding principles of the Ministerial Meeting of Lancang-Mekong Water Resources Cooperation
China Report ASEAN: The Ministerial Meeting of Lancang-Mekong Water Resources Cooperation is just around the corner. What are your expectations for this meeting?
Yu Xingjun: This meeting was proposed by the MWR for the purpose of guiding Lancang-Mekong water cooperation both at present and for a period to come. On December 17, Chinese Minister of Water Resources E Jingping will attend a gathering with his counterparts from other countries involved for the first time. They will conduct in-depth discussions on the theme “Enhancing Water Partnership for Sustainable Development” and adopt outcomes including a joint statement and the list of Lancang-Mekong water cooperation projects. As such, the meeting will give a strong impetus to Lancang-Mekong water cooperation and further enhance mutual trust and water partnership among the six LMC countries.
China Report ASEAN: What are your thoughts on future Lancang-Mekong water resources cooperation?
Yu Xingjun: The six LMC countries will continue to communicate and exchange with each other in an in-depth manner and at multiple levels, by means of the ministerial meeting, the Joint Working Group and the Lancang-Mekong Water Resources Cooperation Forum, so that we can build consensus on cooperation and engage in more practical cooperation. We recommend that under the LMC mechanism, the six countries (1) establish an information sharing platform for the entire river basin to strengthen information sharing among the six countries while promoting the construction of a cooperation platform that will respond to regional floods and droughts and boost sustainable utilization of water resources; (2) jointly support the development of the Lancang-Mekong Water Resources Center to facilitate technical exchange and cooperation among the six countries; and (3) promote regional production capacity cooperation in water conservancy for mutual benefit and win-win outcomes among the six countries.