Chinese Premier Li Keqiang arrives at the Lancang-Mekong Cooperation (LMC) leaders' meeting in Phnom Penh, Cambodia on January 10, 2018. Photo: CGTN
A stream of black limousines swept into the grounds of the Peace Palace in Cambodia’s capital Phnom Penh carrying the leaders of six Asian nations to the Lancang-Mekong Cooperation (LMC) leaders' meeting.
Led by Chinese Premier Li Keqiang and Cambodian Prime Minister Hun Sen, the prime ministers of Thailand, Laos and Vietnam and the vice president of Myanmar met for their top-level talks.
They were here to discuss the future of the Mekong River, which has a massive impact on the economic welfare of nations in the region.
Their task: to approve the Five-year Action Plan to stimulate the Mekong’s development while preserving its natural environment.
Governments build dams on the Mekong to provide hydroelectric power. They say dams can help regulate the river, preventing flood or drought downstream. In 2016, China opened one of its dams to let more water flow when Vietnam was suffering a shortage.
Leaders arrive for the Lancang-Mekong Cooperation (LMC) leaders' meeting in Phnom Penh, Cambodia on January 10, 2018. Photo: CGTN
But some environmentalists say dams can affect the fish population on which millions depend for food. The Mekong is one of the world’s most productive fisheries. Silt and sediment carried by the river is also necessary for the rice fields.
With so many competing demands it’s always difficult to please everyone.
But most observers have praised the Lancang-Mekong Cooperation organization, created by China in 2015.
It’s the first body to include all six nations the Mekong flows through. And in the short time it’s been in existence, it’s initiated dozens of projects to help safeguard this vital waterway.
Mekong River, Phnom Penh. Photo: CGTN
In the past, disagreements over the river often led to a stalemate. But the LMC tries to achieve consensus. Most recently, a contentious plan to dynamite rocks in the river – to clear rocks and allow ships to pass – was put on hold, allowing more time for environmental assessments to be made.