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MRC Council of ministers approves crucial sustainable hydropower development strategy, appoints new CEO

The Mekong River Commission (MRC) Council on Nov 25 approved the highly anticipated Sustainable Hydropower Development Strategy (SHDS 2021) for the Lower Mekong Basin, one of the key deliverables of the previous Basin Development Strategy and the MRC Strategic Plan 2016–2020, to address the future sustainability of hydropower developments.

Water and environment ministers from Cambodia, Lao PDR, Thailand and Viet Nam gave their agreement to the strategy and other organizational rules and procedures during the 28th meeting hosted by the Royal Government of Thailand in Bangkok in a virtual setting with other countries.

Commenting on the Council’s approval of the strategy, General Prawit Wongsuwon, Deputy Prime Minister of Thailand and Chairperson of the MRC Council for 2021, said that the updated SHDS is one that stresses the need to move basin development toward outcomes that can address long-term needs.

“The strategy represents a significant step forward in moving the basin toward optimal, safe and responsible outcomes that address interdependencies between environmental protection, water, food and hydropower production.”

He added that water infrastructure projects including hydropower dams have had a dramatic impact on the Mekong River systems over the last two decades. The approval will set the course for SHDS implementation as set out in the MRC Strategic Plan 2021–2025 to address emerging risks compounded by climate change. It will also provide opportunities for the MRC to work with Member Countries on better data and information sharing and coordination of operation of hydropower projects.

SHDS 2021 is the culmination of efforts that first commenced in 2017. The formulation process that included an additional study on a range of hydropower development scenarios began in 2018, and engaged developers, academia and civil society organizations.

At the virtual meeting, the MRC Council also welcomed the appointment of Dr Anoulak Kittikhoun of Lao nationality as the 3rd Riparian CEO of the MRC Secretariat for the 2022–2024 tenure. Dr Kittikhoun’s appointment follows a unanimous decision by the MRC Joint Committee through a recruitment process that began in February this year. Dr Kittikhoun will take up his role in mid-January 2022.

Dr Kittikhoun succeeds Dr An Pich Hatda of Cambodian nationality whose term as the 2nd Riparian CEO of the MRC Secretariat comes to an end in early January 2022. Council Members and MRC Development Partners expressed their appreciation for the leadership of Dr Hatda and his important contributions to the MRC in performing its role.

“Development Partners highly appreciate Dr Hatda’s excellent cooperation during the last three years, which have been marked by remarkable organizational and technical achievements despite challenging circumstances,” said Ms AnnaMaria Oltorp, Chairperson of the MRC Development Partners Group.

The Council Meeting also approved updated Rules of Procedures for the MRC Council and Joint Committee and received a report on the MRC’s financial status and implementation of the Multi-Year Work Plan 2021–2022. Additionally, the meeting discussed preparations for the 4th MRC Summit and International Conference, tentatively scheduled to take place in April 2023 and hosted by the Government of the Lao PDR.

The MRC Council is the highest level of the organization, with its membership comprising water resources and environment ministers and other relevant high-level officials from Cambodia, Lao PDR, Thailand and Viet Nam. Representatives of Dialogue Partners, China and Myanmar, and other partners also participate in the annual meeting.

Source: LAO News Agency