Mekong transboundary cooperation: Making a problem bigger

VietnamNet Bridge

VietNamNet Bridge would like to introduce an article by Jake Brunner, head of IUCN’s Hanoi-based Indo-Burma Group and Brian Eyler, director of Stimson Center’s Washington DC-based Southeast Asia Program about the need to foster cooperation among Vietnam, Laos and Cambodia in protecting the Mekong River.

When asked about his success as a soldier and politician, U.S. President Eisenhower said: “Whenever I run into a problem I can’t solve, I always make it bigger.  I can never solve it by trying to make it smaller, but if I make it big enough, I can begin to see the outlines of a solution.”

Eisenhower’s approach to problem-solving made him a successful leader.  And it may be relevant to the situation in the Mekong today.

While they are neighbors, Cambodia, Laos, and Vietnam vary greatly in size, population, natural resource abundance, and level of economic development.

Their interests do not necessarily converge.  In fact, when it comes to the Mekong, they’ve clearly diverged.

Having dammed the headwaters of the Sesan and Srepok Rivers, Vietnam is now primarily concerned about water and sediment delivery to the economically vital Mekong Delta.

Without sufficient sediment to replenish the land, the delta will sink beneath the East Sea–a problem compounded by unsustainable groundwater pumping and rising sea level.

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