Water scarcity and declining quality would be a challenge to countries in the region, a study group on water resources security was told yesterday.
Cai Be floating market in the Mekong Delta province of Tien Giang. Countries in the Mekong River basin could face water scarcities and declining quality due to poor management.
The two day meeting of the Council for Security Co-operation in the Asia Pacific (CSCAP), beginning Tuesday, attracted experts in water resources security in the region.
Swedish scholar Maria Larsson said the Asia Pacific region would run short of water within a decade, especially in the lower reaches of the Mekong River, due to the present utilisation and management of water resources.
Other scholars warned that surface and underground water was being polluted by rapid urbanisation and industrialisation, the increasing use of chemical fertilisers and the discharge of untreated water to rivers.
They said the building of dams on the main stream of the Mekong River would seriously divert water flow, stopping over 50 per cent of alluvial soil running to its lower reaches, exterminating ecological diversification in the river valley and causing unmeasurable corollaries at the river mouth.
Tarek Ketelsen from the International Centre for Environment Management said the building of hydro-electricity dams along the river would meet a small part of demand for energy in their countries.
However, these projects would cause a loss of between 3,000 tonnes and 4,000 tonnes of fish every year and adversely impact on 600 million of people living along the river and another 300 million of rice consumers, he said.
Ketelsen said the dams would also eternally change the economy, culture and society of the lower reaches of the Mekong River and cause serious conflict of interest issue among regional countries.
Scholar Mark Brindon from Australia said water reserves to feed dams in the upper reaches of the Mekong would increase the risk of having one dam after another broken in the case of an earthquake.
The resulting catastrophe would be many times greater than the havoc wreaked by the tsunami in Japan, he said
All scholars said institutions and co-operation between regional countries were not enough to ensure water resources security in the region.
They stressed the need to have a transparent exchange of information about the use of water resources.
"Sharing data on river flow should be urgently done by countries along the river," they said.
A Chinese scholar said China had co-operated better with countries in the river's lower reaches after the Chinese Government permitted the sharing of its data on flow.
China would continue to look for measures to strengthen co-operation with these countries, the scholar said.
Scholar George Radosevich cited international rules on the use of water resources, including the guarantee of equality between nations sharing the river, the guarantee of open traffic along the river, equal sharing of natural resources in the river and not detrimental to countries in the river's lower reaches.
Vietnamese and Thai scholars suggested strengthening the role of ASEAN in seeking measures for water resources protection and bringing the Mekong River protection issue onto ASEAN's agenda.
Other measures to enhance co-operation in waste water treatment, ecological environment protection, coping with climate change and the rise in sea water level were also discussed at the meeting.
The second session of the study group will take place in Cambodia in 2011 and was expected to focus on discussing concrete measures to strengthen international and regional co-operation with a view to better protecting water resources in the region.