This Declaration was endorsed at the Conference: The Mekong River at Risk: The impact of development on the River, her Delta, and her People

held on Saturday May 8, 1999 at Ramada Plaza Hotel

10022 Garden Grove Blvd. in Garden Grove, CA. USA

 

The 1999 Mekong River Declaration Safeguarding the Mekong River, Her Delta, and Her People

 

The Mekong River, the world's 11th longest river, is also the world's 2nd richest river in its biodiversity. Fed by the melting snows of the Tibetan Himalayas and monsoon rains of Southeast Asia, the 4200 km Mekong is home to thousands of rare and endangered species of plants and animals. The river and her countless tributaries nourish and support over 90 million people, from China in the north to Burma, Thailand, Laos, Cambodia, and finally to the millions living in Vietnam's Mekong Delta region.

 

The fish in the Tonle Sap Lake, UNESCO's Biosphere Reserve and the Mekong represent the source of 80% protein for millions of Cambodian and Vietnamese living there. The Delta, Vietnam's "rice bowl" and its crops are feeding and sustaining the people of many nations, making Vietnam the second largest rice exporting country in the world. Today, the Tonle Sap Lake and the Delta region, and all those residing in the Mekong Basin are threatened by the reckless development and misuse of this great river and her waters. The new threats are far greater than any drought or flood in their history of existence.

 

Water diversion and development projects along the Mekong River and her tributaries are threats not only to the Delta inhabitants' way of life, fisheries and agricultural productivity, but to the river and Delta ecosystems. Scientists and engineers around the world are concerned by the environmental damage to the Delta being caused by development projects far upstream. These projects include large-scale hydropower developments in Yunnan [China] and in Laos, and the massive Mekong water diversion projects proposed by Thailand. The economic costs and environmental consequences of the projects, however, are being borne most heavily not only by

local inhabitants but also by those living and farming far down stream in the Mekong Delta. These people have no voice in these decisions, and reap no benefit from these projects.

 

Alarm bells are now ringing in the Tonle Sap Lake and the Delta. The fish catch in the Tonle Sap Lake in recent years has decreased by 50%. In November 1998, the annual flood needed by the Delta farmers to control soil acidity and saltwater intrusion did not arrive and the water level at Tan Chau monitoring station, at the end of the rain season, fell to a 73-year record. Accompanying the drastic reduction in Mekong water levels are similar reductions in fishing harvests and loss of the Mekong's nutrient-rich river sediments essential for productive rice farming and crucial for shore erosion control. The water table in the delta is now falling due to the shortage of river water available to recharge the aquifer. Saltwater has invaded up to 70 km into the Mekong delta, threatening to contaminate existing ground water supplies and to render million of hectares of farmland unproductive.

 

Existing and proposed water-diversion and hydropower dam projects will alter the Mekong Basin's hydrologic cycle permanently. Upstream, thousands of square kilometers of critical forest could be inundated due to reservoirs. Downstream, the floodplain's croplands could be deprived of the water and fertile silt supplied by

the annual floods. Some 100,000 people could be displaced. Experts around the world have established that if one robs a river of its waters and alters its natural cycles, that river will die.

 

The fisheries, agricultural and environmental richness of the Tonle Sap Lake and the Mekong Delta must be protected. Not only on

behalf of Cambodia and Vietnam, but on behalf of all the people of Southeast Asia. The Mekong river -the world's last remaining major unobstructed riverine ecosystem- must be preserved and the food security of 100 million poor people should be safeguarded.

 

We urge action now to safeguard the Mekong River and address this declaration and petition to:

                                The governments of China, Thailand, Myanmar, Laos, Cambodia, and Vietnam

                                The United Nations Development Program and The Mekong River Commission

                                The World Bank

                                The Asian Development Bank

                                Donor Countries and International Aid Agencies

                                Multinational Corporations and Investors

 

We call upon all national and international stakeholders, policymakers, and residents of the Mekong Basin and Delta region to observe and uphold these principles for the responsible development of the Mekong River Basin

                                That a moratorium be instituted immediately against further Mekong water-diversion, damming, and

hydropower projects, and that the first priority for national and international agencies be the establishment of

scientific baseline data on the Mekong, its hydrology, and its ecosystems.

                                That a comprehensive environmental impact assessment will be required for all Mekong projects and an environmental management system in compliance with ISO 14000 series will be required from all Mekong projects developers. The EIA's shall consider accumulative impacts of all proposed projects and shall be carried out by independent and qualified scientists, free from any conflict of interest and from the appearance of any conflict of interest.

                                That all Mekong development and diversion projects plans, regardless of their sources of finance and ownership, must honor and grant the "right to be educated" along with "the right to know" for all affected populations. Affected populations must be provided with adequate information and knowledge necessary to understand the project's design, review the costs and benefits, and assess for themselves the long-term impacts of the project.

                                That all affected populations throughout the basin, without regard to national borders, have the right to participate in any project's "go or no go" decision.

                                That all agencies and authorities conduct their business on the principles of transparency and full disclosure, that all development plans, agreements, environmental baseline data, environmental impact assessment reports, feasibility studies be made public and available for review by the international scientific community, non-governmental organizations, and by individual private citizens.

                                That the development of all policies and decisions, project, and rules and regulations of the Mekong River Commission and all member nation agencies shall include a public participation program with guaranteed freedom of expression and freedom of press.

                                That developers, owners and development agencies be held responsible for all planned and unplanned environmental losses and damages caused by their projects and for the losses inflicted on properties, people's income and means of livelihood.

                                That the four Lower Mekong nations: Laos, Thailand, Cambodia and Vietnam modify the 1995 Agreement to closely follow the language of the United Nations' Law of the Non-Navigational Uses of International Watercourses of 1997; and that China and Myanmar join the above four lower Mekong countries, and together negotiate an agreement for the delelopment and protection of the Mekong in the 21st Century.

 

Considered and endorsed by representatives of:

 

The Vietnamese American Science & Technology Society

The Cambodian Association of America

The United Hometown Associations of Tien Giang and Hau Giang

The Mekong Forum

International Rivers Network

The Petrus Ky High School Alumni Association

The Gia Long High School Alumni Association

Di Toi Magazine - The Ky 21 Magazine

Nguoi Viet Daily news - Viet Bao Kinh Te Daily News

Vien Dong Daily News

Thoi Nay Daily News