Environment ministers from six countries sharing the Mekong River, including China, Cambodia and Thailand, have affirmed their commitment to enhance cooperation on preserving their individual and shared natural resources, according to a statement made available to Xinhua Thursday.
In a joint statement issued at the end of their Wednesday meeting in Shanghai, the Mekong Environment Ministers said that the key economic sectors in the Greater Mekong Subregion (GMS) depend critically on the conservation and sustainable management of healthy natural systems, according to the Asian Development Bank (ADB), which coordinated the meeting
"We acknowledge the importance of further accelerating the momentum of GMS environmental activities," they held. "We reaffirm our commitment for a better environment and sustainable development in the GMS."
In addition to the ministers, the meeting brought together approximately 80 senior environment officials from the six GMS countries -- Cambodia, China, Laos, Myanmar, Thailand, and Viet Nam, who reviewed the achievements in environmental cooperation and discuss future directions in environment and natural resource management.
The ministers endorsed the GMS Core Environment Program and recommended its early implementation to improve management of the shared natural resources in the GMS. An Environment Operations Center will be established to coordinate the program.
The ministers also endorsed the GMS Biodiversity Conservation Corridors Initiative (BCI) to protect high value terrestrial biodiversity conservation landscapes.
The BCI aims to help establish sustainable management regimes and restore ecological (habitat) connectivity and integrity within important biodiversity areas.
ADB Vice President Liqun Jin, who led ADB's delegation to the meeting, said "The Core Environment Program is a systematic and integrated approach to conserve the natural systems of the GMS for the ecosystem services they provide."
"It provides the framework to address the immediate and long- term stresses that rapid economic growth would, otherwise, have on the environment and natural resources of the subregion."
Appreciating the support of ADB, United Nations Environment Program, and other development partners, the ministers urged donor countries and international agencies, the private sector, and civil society to strengthen their collaboration to support the GMS Core Environment Program.
The GMS Program began in 1992 to promote closer regional economic ties and cooperation among the countries sharing the Mekong River. Covering an area about the size of western Europe, the GMS is home to more than 250 million people.
The bank said its wealth of human and natural resources makes it a new frontier for economic growth in Asia.
(China Daily May 27, 2005)