Mekong Countries Meet to Confirm Environmental Priorities

JINGHONG, PEOPLE’S REPUBLIC OF CHINA - Senior environment officials from the six Greater Mekong Subregion (GMS) countries met today to discuss priority actions for an environmentally-friendly GMS Economic Cooperation Program.

“The first five years were about building awareness and appreciation of improved environmental management in the GMS. We have that foundation in place and now the emphasis is on scaling up,” said Sanath Ranawana, Senior Natural Resource Management Specialist at the Asian Development Bank (ADB).

The officials, members of the Working Group on Environment, are finalizing an 18-month work plan for the Core Environment Program and Biodiversity Conservation Initiative, a multi-year program tasked with mainstreaming environmental considerations into GMS economic development.

The ADB-administered program was established in 2006 amid growing concerns over ecosystem fragmentation and other environmental issues in the GMS. Its work will continue to focus on environmental planning, and climate, biodiversity and livelihood initiatives as it begins its next five-year phase of operation.

The program has received recognition for establishing biodiversity conservation ‘corridors’ linking protected areas, as well as introducing systems for reporting on environmental performance, and planning tools such as strategic environmental assessments.

“Natural resources underpin economic growth in the GMS and we need to make sure these resources are sustainably managed so they continue to provide economic, social, and environmental benefits long into the future,” said Chuon Chanrithy, the representative from Cambodia’s Ministry of Environment.

The first phase of the Core Environment Program and Biodiversity Conservation Corridors Initiative was co-financed by the Governments of Finland, Netherlands, and Sweden, as well as PRC’s Poverty Reduction Cooperation Fund.

Under funding from the Government of Finland, second phase (2012-2016) activities are expected to begin in the GMS countries – Cambodia, People’s Republic of China, Lao People’s Democratic Republic, Myanmar, Thailand, and Viet Nam – from June onwards.