ADB to Help Develop Sound Environmental Management for Mekong

MANILA, PHILIPPINES - ADB will help develop sound environmental management systems and institutions to promote greater environmental and biodiversity protection in the Mekong countries, through a grant package of $25.57 million. In addition to ADB, the Governments of the Netherlands and Sweden, and ADB's Poverty Reduction Cooperation Fund financed by the United Kingdom are key partners supporting the initiative.

"Establishing sound environmental management systems and operational capacity is essential for enhancing the development potential, performance, and impact of the Greater Mekong Subregion (GMS) Economic Cooperation Program. Launching of Core Environment Program (CEP) by GMS countries is an important step in meeting this need," says Rajat M. Nag, Director General, Mekong Department.

One of Asia's fastest growing areas, the Mekong region is facing increasing environmental management challenges as a direct result of development that could undermine the functioning of its ecosystems.

"We are seeing a trend where the demand for products - whether forestry, fisheries, agriculture, industrialization, energy, or nature-based tourism - is increasing yet the natural resources to meet these demands are depleting," says Javed Hussain Mir, an ADB Senior Natural Resources Specialist.

"Current responses, such as the establishment of protected areas on their own cannot stem ecosystem decline as these areas tend to be small and fragmented."

A meeting of environment ministers of the six GMS countries in Shanghai in May and the second GMS summit in Kunming, PRC, in July 2005 endorsed a Core Environment Program (CEP) to address likely stresses on the environment from economic development in the Mekong.

The GMS governments - comprising Cambodia, People's Republic of China, Lao People's Democratic Republic, Myanmar, Thailand, and Viet Nam - are introducing major new programs to strengthen the environmental component of their Strategic Development Framework, adopted in 2001 to guide the next 10 years of their development.

Key activities of the technical assistance (TA) will support the CEP by assessing the potential environmental impact of development and investments in hydropower, roads, and tourism in some of the region's economic corridors and identifying opportunities to pay for environmental services.

The TA will also help establish at least five biodiversity corridors at pilot sites. These corridors can be continuous strips of land or stepping stones that are patches of suitable habitat used to combat fragmentation and improve the area's ecology.

It will also prepare a development and investment plan for 2009-2015 and enhance environmental performance assessment capability in the GMS countries.

The TA's total cost is estimated at $36.11 million, of which the GMS countries will make in kind contributions of $600,000. In addition, the Government of Sweden will provide parallel financing to cover the secondment of international expertise. Other contributions will be made by development partners including United States Agency for International Development (USAID), United Nations Environment Program (UNEP), the Global Environment Facility/United Nations Development Program Mekong Wetland Biodiversity project, and nongovernmental organization partners, including World Wide Fund for Nature and the World Conservation Union.