Press Release

Green Growth on the Rise in the Mekong River Basin: From Concept to Reality

NINH BINH, Viet Nam – July 1, 2014The international conference “Green Growth on the Rise in the Mekong River Basin: From Concept to Reality” takes place from July 1 to 2 in Ninh Binh province, Viet Nam, and is co-hosted by the Global Green Growth Institute and the Viet Nam National Mekong Committee (VNMC).

Shared by the riparian countries, the Mekong River Basin serves as the basis for economic growth of the region but at the cost of its degradation and losses that have negatively influenced natural capital and livelihoods. Apart from the overuse of the resources for economic development, the Basin is also suffering from floods, droughts and rising sea and salinity levels to compound the situation. The adverse impacts from man-made developments and consequent environmental changes (i.e. climate change, urbanization, and population growth) have created an immense pressure on socio-economic development and natural resources management across national boundaries, thereby urging strong international cooperation. And, all of these issues converge upon one single theme: water.

Water has strong interconnections to food and energy. 70 percent of the world’s available water resources are consumed by the agricultural sector to secure food supply. Almost all types of energy generation require significant amount of water, while the treatment and transport of water require energy. Despite the significance, water is faced with challenges including increasing demands, over exploitation, and pollution. By 2030, nearly half of the world’s population is projected to face high water stress and consequent energy and food security issues – and Mekong River Basin is not an exception.

An integrated approach is being taken to tackle the imminent and forecasted challenges at the national, regional and international levels. At the center of discussions is the water, energy and food security nexus approach, according to which no more “silo” approaches are acceptable as solutions based on one sector inevitably affect other sectors as is witnessed the most in the sectors of water, energy and food.

Le Duc Trung, the Director General of the Vietnam National Mekong Committee, said, “It is apparent that proper management and efficient use of scarce water resources of the Mekong River is a matter of vital importance and urgency.”

In his opening remarks, he shared an example using the Mekong Delta which “serves as the ‘rice bowl’ of Asia,” but is “faced with impacts of climate change and rapid development to produce electricity in the basin,” which necessitates the nexus approach for possible measures.

He also highlighted on the importance of green growth, as “[Challenges] shift our way of developing our economy from old thinking by abusing our natural resources towards having a green economy, green production and green lifestyles.”

However, it is still needed to explore how these conceptual discussions can be interpreted into real hands-on opportunities, in policy-making and business context. This is why many countries in the Mekong region adopted green growth in their policy context.

Green growth interventions are designed to add to achieving sustainable development by: avoiding and curbing greenhouse gas emissions, promoting resource efficiency, building resilience to climate variability, reducing poverty and inequality, and creating a value for economically invisible natural assets that have underpinned economic success over the past decades and centuries.

Within the Mekong context, the concept of green growth could help foster trans-boundary cooperation as it encourages collaborative efforts at sectoral and cross-sectoral levels, thereby reinforcing efficient water management and water governance in the Basin. This could also capture strong interdependences among resources and sectors to highlight the need for radical but gradual transformation in production and consumption patterns without compromising the environmental limits.

Imran Habib Ahmad, Director of East Asia and Pacific of Global Green Growth Institute said, “This multi-stakeholder discussion on water and green growth aims to discuss the possible linkages between green growth and water management in the Mekong context; examine from the socio-economic and political perspectives the role of water as one of the significant promoters of green growth; and facilitate a learning process on global water agenda to realize green growth from policy to action.”

Ahmad added, “The conference will provide a platform for cross-sectoral experts to discuss on a variety of topics pertaining to the green growth opportunities for the Mekong River Basin and beyond.”

The topics at the conference include the conceptual issues of water and green growth; climate change and water; prioritization methodologies to explore water-related policy intervention options; cutting-edge knowledge on both sustainable man-made and ecological infrastructure to provide decision makers in the public and private sectors with holistic information; and water-related global agenda for the post-2015 discussion. (See the conference schedule for the six subthemes).

View the Conference Program.

GGGI’s engagement in the Mekong River Basin

The Global Green Growth Institute (GGGI) started engaging in the Mekong River Basin in 2012. In cooperation with the Cambodia National Mekong Committee (CNMC), the Lao National Mekong Committee (LNMC), and the Vietnam Mekong National Committee  (VNMC), GGGI conducted preliminary stock-taking activities exploring green growth opportunities in the Basin. In October 2013, the scope of the project was narrowed down to focus on the Mekong Delta in Vietnam to recognize the Delta’s critical role in the socio-economic development of the country and reflect strong demands from the VNMC. The project is now one of the key components of the GGGI Vietnam country program, which specifically aims to identify green growth options that can resolve the current water-related challenges in the Delta. Over the past 9 months, GGGI has closely cooperated with the VNMC to capture the existing link between water and economic growth in the Delta, and develop a tool to prioritize the identified green growth opportunities in relation to water sector. Both are now in the stage to finalize the project and define the next stages. Vietnam has recently adopted the National Green Growth Strategy, striving to be one of the pioneers at the forefront to realize green growth via mobilizing water resources and policies. GGGI as a trusted advisor to Vietnam will continue to engage actively in the country’s roadmap for green growth.

Read the paper Unleashing Green Growth in the Mekong Delta