Sustainable Development in Transboundary Water Resource Management : A Case Study of the Mekong River Basin
Global climate change, environmental degradation and demographic changes has emphasizedthe sustainable development of Mekong river basin. The research uses the theoreticalframework that sustainable development in the transboundary water resource management ismost likely to be achieved through the policy making based on the ‘regional approach’ andthe ‘alternative development strategy.’ The aim of this research is to investigate themanagement of Mekong river basin within the theoretical framework and to assess theprospect of sustainable development. The Mekong River Commission (MRC) and itsprograms, hydropower development in the upstream and the downstream and the geopoliticalsituation of the Mekong region are reviewed for the analysis. In result, although MRC hasstressed the principle of sustainable development, the limitations such as the damconstructions in the both upstream and downstream, donor influence, legal restrictions of the1995 Mekong Agreement and limited implementation of the participatory approach indevelopment programs remain as the constraints to achieve sustainable development. TheBuild-Own-Transfer type of privatized hydropower development in the downstream is achallenge to the environmental and social sustainability by accelerating the process of thedam building process. MRC’s the most prioritized strategy to introduce the ‘Integrated WaterResource Management’ implies the basin-wide management of water resource management,yet the complexity of respective national interests have to be added as a concern in thetransboundary context. The absence of China and Burma in MRC is a critical weakness toapply the regional-approach in the development policy. In the case of the upstreamhydropower development, the decision making has been done unilaterally without theaccountable and transparent process. As China considers the Mekong in the relation to theenergy production and oil transportation, the securitization of the Mekong will affectnegatively on the future participation of China in MRC. A positive trend can be derived fromChina’s ambition to become a regional power to replace the donors in MRC, and thisstrategic realism will strengthen the regional cooperation between China and other riparianstates though MRC.
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