Australia has been engaged in the Mekong region for decades, including supporting the Mekong River Commission. This support has been multi-faceted through different programs and projects and was visible through Australian representation in Vientiane during the summit.

Laos hosted a four-day Mekong River Commission leadership summit and conference last week, focusing on this vital waterway for Southeast Asia.

This was the fourth MRC summit, the last held five years ago in 2018. The latest talks focused on innovation and cooperation, a crucial concern as the Mekong region has faced growing challenges, including the steady increase in hydropower projects as a result of rapid economic development of the riparian states, including China, Thailand, Laos, Vietnam, Cambodia and Myanmar. Cheap, renewable energy is considered crucial to meet increasing electricity demands in the region, especially given volatile prices in international energy markets and concerns over carbon emissions.

Today, the Mekong is undergoing tremendous transformation linked to a changing flow regime, increased population and water use, and floods and droughts affecting the 65 million people that rely on the river system. The impact of climate change is visible through devastating droughts in the last few years, with downstream countries feeling the brunt, especially Vietnam’s rice fields and Cambodia’s fisheries.

Please click here to read the full “Mekong River: Turning declaration into actions” article published at The Interpreter, written by Griffith Asia Institute member, Dr Andrea Haefner.