Written by: Hendra Gupta & T.K. de Silva

In celebration of World Water Day 2024, GWSC and Water Engineering and Management, AIT hosted an event aligned with the theme “Water for Peace.” The event featured a captivating keynote address by Anoulak Kittikhoun, PhD, CEO of the Mekong River Commision (MRC) Secretariat, alongside insightful discussions, engaging activities, and a vibrant photo exhibition. AIT community members and students from the AIT International School showcased their talent through a captivating live monologue competition.

Challenges and Outlook for the Mekong

The “Water for Peace” theme resonates deeply with the Mekong River, a vital resource for over 70 million people across six countries. This international waterway transcends its role as a “shatter belt” with a contested history. It’s an environmental and economic powerhouse, demanding global cooperation and responsible management for lasting prosperity. Dr. Kittikhoun presented “From Contestations to Cooperation: How Major Powers Can Work Together for Peace and Prosperity in the Mekong”, envisioning Mekong’s new days through building friendship, trust, and shared future.

The Mekong faces immense pressures from development and climate change, raising concerns about its future. By 2030, the river could either witness its last days or embrace a new era of sustainability, depending on the actions taken today.

To ensure the Mekong does not meet a dire fate, four transformative shifts are essential:

  • Proactive Regional Planning: Moving from reactive to proactive approaches in regional planning.
  • Coordinated Management: Enhancing coordination in the management of dams and water infrastructures.
  • Modernized Systems: Upgrading to integrated and modern river monitoring, modelling, and information systems.
  • Entire Basin Cooperation: Expanding cooperation from the Lower Mekong to the Entire Mekong river basin.

Major powers have a significant role in supporting riparian countries towards ‘entire basin management. By building friendships, trust, and a shared future through joint infrastructure projects and cooperation between river commissions, we can foster a sustainable and prosperous Mekong region. Dr. Kittikhoun, in the celebration of World Water Day, urged multi stakeholders to commit to these transformative shifts and work together for the peace and prosperity of the Mekong and its people.

The GWSC extends its heartfelt gratitude to Dr. Anoulak Kittikhoun for his inspiring keynote speech. We are also grateful for the contributions of other esteemed guests, Dr. Roshan Raj Shrestha, Deputy Director, Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation, Dr. Dr Linda Anne Stevenson, Programme Director, Asia-Pacific Network for Global Change Research (APN), Prof. Kala Vairavamoorthy, Executive Director of International Water Association, Mr. Niall O’Connor, SEI Asia Centre Director, Prof. Edeltraud (Edel) Guenther, Director of UNU- FLORES, Germany.