A top executive of the Mekong River Commission (MRC) has called for more effective cooperation and urgent action to ensure sustainable development of the mighty river.
Lao National TV on Monday quoted Anoulak Kittikhoun, CEO of the MRC Secretariat, as saying that the Mekong river is facing multiple challenges.
The river faces "alarming" trends in areas, including water flow regime, nourishing sediment, plastics pollution, and climate change-driven floods and drought.
"We call on riparian countries, partners and stakeholders to act. But the way we choose to act, and the way our friends within the region and without, act, will determine the fate of the Mekong -- and all of us," Anoulak told hundreds of experts, diplomats, and students attending the fourth MRC Summit hosted by Laos, which is being held in Lao capital Vientiane from April 2 to 5.
Elaborating on the pressing issues facing the Mekong, Anoulak said climate change has exacerbated both flooding and drought, Xinhua news agency reported.
In the wet years of 2018 and 2000, the number of people suffering from floods rose to 12 million. Meanwhile, the frequency of drought increased in the 10 years from 2010 to 2020, compared to the previous decade.
The CEO recalled his warning issued a year ago about the four straight years of low flow that had created an "unprecedented challenge" for the river, and the vulnerable fishing and farming families who rely upon it.
Regarding plastics pollution, the Mekong is already estimated to pour into the world's oceans the 10th largest amount of plastic debris, amounting to 17.4 to 101 tons per day, the CEO said.
Fish can ingest the microplastics, which can contaminate the human food chain, he added.
However, Anoulak assured the participants that water quality along the Mekong mainstream remains "good or excellent" in most places.
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