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Danish Government supports Mekong countries as they come to grips with climate change


Hua Hin, THAILAND
3 April 2010

The Danish Government has pledged today to provide nearly US$ 1 million (DKK 4.8 million) to help Mekong countries counter the effects of climate change.

The funding will go towards helping Cambodia, Lao PDR, Thailand and Viet Nam; the four Member Countries of the Mekong River Commission (MRC), to work together to mitigate the effects of changes in weather patterns that scientists say are expected over the coming decades in the Mekong River Basin.

“The people of the Mekong Basin are perhaps uniquely vulnerable to the impact of climate change, which is why direct international assistance in this area is vital,” said Jeremy Bird, CEO of the MRC as the funding agreement was signed in Hua Hin, Thailand.

“What we can expect to see are higher and more variable rainfall; more extreme weather events and increased risk of flooding; and a reduction in agricultural productivity from both increased drought frequency and sea level rise into the agriculturally important Mekong Delta. The agreement we are signing today is a step towards mitigating the significant potential impacts on the basin’s economies, people’s livelihoods and diversity of natural resources. ”

The MRC, which will coordinate the Climate Change Adaptation Initiative, says that the funds will be used to develop and test strategies for helping local communities adapt to climate change, which could, for example, include trying out drought or salt water resistant crop varieties, enhancing flood preparedness techniques and increasing the resilience of people’s water supplies. The MRC will also help train government agencies in mitigation measures, and develop a high level basin-wide scientific forum for engagement and reporting on climate change issues affecting the Mekong basin countries.

“The Danish government’s development objectives for the Mekong region include promoting trans-boundary collaboration to reduce poverty and helping to protect and manage water resources,” said H.E. Mr Peter Lysholt Hansen Ambassador from Denmark “The Mekong Basin has a high proportion of people living on low incomes and government capacity to deal with the issue of climate change needs strengthening – but its impact on the poor could be dramatic, with predicted sea level rise of up to one metre that could see millions displaced by the turn of the century.”

The MRC says that many of the projected effects of climate change will be an intensification of existing challenges, such as more intensive flooding and prolonged dry periods, and that governments of the region have already begun to take measures to tackle the issue. This initiative will further strengthen that approach.

The Initiative is part of a broader partnership between the MRC and the Danish Government.

Note to editors:

The Mekong Climate Change and Adaptation Initiative is a new intensified joint effort to tackle climate change in the Mekong Basin. It is already being supported by the Governments of Australia, Finland and Sweden.

The initiative aims to assist MRC countries including Cambodia, Lao PDR, Thailand and Viet Nam in developing and implementing climate change adaptation strategies to deal with the consequences across the basin of an increase in the mean temperature, potentially higher rainfall and more frequent flooding in some parts of the basin, more drought in other parts, and sea level rise impacting the delta.

Much MRC work has already been done to estimate and model likely changes in temperature, rainfall and river flows based on ‘downscaling’ global predictions of climate change.
The MRC is the intergovernmental body responsible for cooperation on the sustainable management of the Mekong Basin whose members include Cambodia, Lao PDR, Thailand and Viet Nam. In dealing with these challenges, it looks across all sectors including sustaining fisheries, identifying opportunities for agriculture, maintaining the freedom of navigation, flood management and preserving important ecosystems. Superimposed on these are the future effects of more extreme floods, prolonged drought and sea level rise associated with climate change. In providing its advice, the MRC aims to facilitate a broad range of dialogue among governments, the private sector and civil society on these challenges.

For more information, contact:
Damian Kean, Communication Advisor,
Tel: +856 20 752 7500 (Lao PDR)
       + 66 861 030 710 (Thailand)
E-mail: damian@mrcmekong.org
Website: www.mrcmekong.org