Theerapon Thammahora, from Department of Water Resources of the Ministry of Natural Resources and Environment of Thailand, participated in the Senior Professionals of Lancang- Mekong Water Resources Cooperation program thanks to a Chinese Government Scholarship. “I learned a lot about hydrology by studying in China,” reported Theerapon. “I conducted research on topics such as water safety in the Mekong River, and I hope this new knowledge will help me manage flood and drought situations in Thailand. I am deeply thankful for the opportunity provided by the Chinese government. I hope to serve as a bridge between China and Thailand to enhance mutual trust and communications, and I will continue to contribute to promoting cooperation on water resources and advancing the economic and social development of the Mekong Basin.”
The Senior Professionals of Lancang-Mekong Water Resources Cooperation program was launched in 2017 by Hohai University and the Lancang-Mekong Water Resources Cooperation Center (LMWRCC) of the People’s Republic of China. The aims of the scholarship are to train young talent to enhance water conservancy in countries along the Mekong River and strengthen intellectual support for Lancang-Mekong cooperation (LMC) on water resources.
Nearly 90 young officials, experts and university students from Mekong countries are currently studying at Hohai University. They are set to play an important role in facilitating Lancang-Mekong cooperation on water resources as both beneficiaries and professionals devoted to the cause.
Talent Program Inception
As a member country of the LMC, China attaches great importance to the people-to-people exchange with Mekong countries. At the second Lancang-Mekong Cooperation Leaders’ Meeting, Premier Li Keqiang declared that Lancang- Mekong countries must rely on education and talent to eliminate poverty entirely and boost development, which requires transforming huge demographic potential into human resource advantages. To this end, China is willing to enhance cooperation on human resources with Mekong countries and help cultivate more talent at all levels needed for development.
According to the Sanya Declaration of the First Lancang- Mekong Cooperation (LMC) Leaders’ Meeting released in March 2016, China vowed commitment to providing 18,000 person-year scholarships and 5,000 training opportunities to candidates from Mekong countries over the next three years to support closer cooperation among Lancang-Mekong countries. The program concept won immediate praise from the five Mekong countries.
Cooperation on water resources is an LMC priority. As the problems brought by climate change become increasingly pressing, Mekong countries are faced with various challenges related to water resources. Achieving the water-related goals of the United Nations’ 2030 Agenda for Sustainable Development will require deeper international cooperation. In this context, carrying out technical exchange and personnel training in the field of water resources is imminently important.
In 2017, with support from the Ministry of Water Resources of the People’s Republic of China, Hohai University and the LMWRCC jointly submitted the Senior Professionals of Lancang- Mekong Water Resources Cooperation under Chinese Government Scholarship Program to the Ministry of Education of People’s Republic of China. The Scholarship targets highlevel water conservancy personnel working in governmental departments of Mekong countries. Participants would study in Hohai University for three years to earn master degrees in Hydrology and Water Resources Engineering, Hydraulic and Hydro- Power Engineering, and Harbor, Waterway or Coastal Engineering.
“The Mekong Basin is one of the largest river basins in Southeast Asia,” noted Nguyen Minh Thuy, a participant from Hanoi, Vietnam. “Many people live in the region, and their livelihoods depend directly on the river. I hope for a better cooperation program binding Lancang-Mekong countries so I can better contribute to efficient utilization of water resources.” Nguyen was deeply impressed by China’s rapid development when she first visited in 2017. She feels lucky for the opportunity to study in China and hopes to figure out some reasons for the country’s development miracle.
Intellectual Support for LMC
While Hohai University delivers classes on technology and hydrological knowledge to participants, the LMWRCC provides opportunities for practical learning.
In November 2018, the LMWRCC and Hohai University jointly held the China-ASEAN Youth Talent Exchange Program on Water Resources and invited 26 participants from Mekong countries to visit water-related organizations and communicate with experts and professionals from the Nanjing Hydraulic Research Institute, Nanjing Automation Institute of Water Conservancy and Hydrology, China Water Resources Beifang Investigation, Design and Research Co., Ltd., Construction and Administration Bureau of South-to-North Water Division Middle Route Project, Beijing Tuanchenghu Management Office of South-North Water Transfer Project, and China Institute of Water Resources and Hydropower Research.
In August 2019, the LMWRCC and Changjiang Water Resources Commission (CWRC) of the Ministry of Water Resources co-sponsored a seminar for China and ASEAN countries to discuss issues related to flood prevention, drought control and comprehensive management of water resources. Participants engaged in discussions with Chinese experts visited the site of the Niulanjiang- Dianchi Water Supply Project to conduct a field investigation. They also visited the CWRC to learn more about China’s major hydroelectric projects such as the Three Gorges Dam, the South-to-North Water Diversion Project and the Dujiangyan Irrigation System.
The LMWRCC also helped organize a youth seminar on Lancang-Mekong Water Resources Cooperation and activities for the 2019 Lancang- Mekong Week. During the seminar, participants reported that their studies in China were enjoyable and fruitful. Not only did they gain precious knowledge and experience about hydrology and water conservancy, they also experienced Chinese culture and broadened their horizons.
“In cold water, plenty of fish can be found,” declared Kry Layhok from Cambodia. “In good places, people can be found, and in good schools, good student can be found.” After the program, participants expressed agreement that the cooperation mechanism had improved the capabilities for managing water resources in the Mekong Basin. They praised China’s achievements in water-conservancy engineering and vowed to apply China’s experience in the field to facilitate water-related construction back home and strive to bond the six countries together to cooperate on water resources.
During the three years since the launch of the LMC mechanism, China and the five Mekong countries have been working closely together to cooperate on water resources. Awarded one of the best programs for Chinese Government Scholarship Silk Road Programs 2019-2020, the LMC Senior Professionals Program on Water Resources continues evolving and improving and has become a great incubator providing intellectual support for the cause.
A representative from the Embassy of Laos in Beijing expressed appreciation to China’s Ministry of Water Resources for launching the scholarship. He praised the work of the LMWRCC and thanked the Chinese government for its efforts to train young water conservancy talent from Mekong countries.