US boosts aid to Lower Mekong

US boosts aid to Lower Mekong

The Friends of the Lower Mekong meeting in Laos are working with the United States on alternative energy and low carbon technology development in the sub-region.

The move is seen as as attempt by the US to catch up with China, which announced plans to help its Mekong partners in December.

Counsellor Tom Shannon and Senior Adviser to the Secretary of State, David Thorne, led a US delegation to a Friends of the Lower Mekong meeting on Monday in Pakse, Laos, where they discussed development issues, water resources, energy needs and food security.

Friends of the Lower Mekong is a donor coordination group comprising representatives from the European Union, Australia, Denmark, Finland, Germany, Japan, Korea, the Netherlands, and Sweden, and the US. It was the first time the group has come together to discuss cooperation projects with senior officials from Laos, Myanmar, Cambodia, Thailand, and Vietnam alongside representatives from the Mekong River Commission (MRC), the Asian Development Bank, and World Bank.

Mr Shannon said yesterday the health of Mekong River was essential to economic growth in the region but development progress must ensure clean air and clean water are protected.

The US delegation announced several initiatives including a USAID sustainable Mekong energy initiative, through which the US would promote the use of alternative energy and low-emission technologies, he said.

"We are also looking at activities under the Lower Mekong Initiative launched in 2009 to help address other transnational issues as well as economic gaps in Asean countries," Mr Shannon said.

Mr Thorne said the State Department would contribute US$500,000 (16.3 million baht) to support a study with the MRC on the impacts of hydropower on the community and environment.

"We bring partners from Europe and America to provide technical assistance on hydropower management including the experiences of the Mississippi River Commission so the region learns how to avoid the mistakes we've made," said Mr Thorne.

In December, China announced at the Greater Mekong Subregion Summit in Bangkok that it would offer more than US$3 billion in loans and aid to neighbours Cambodia, Vietnam, Myanmar, Thailand and Laos to improve infrastructure, connectivity and production capacity.

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