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Politics and Development of the Mekong River Basin: Transboundary Dilemmas and Participatory Ambitions

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Abstract

The chapter takes a two-pronged approach. Firstly it reviews the fundamentals of the Mekong Basin system, providing a broad overview of the natural system and its basic water regime and from there defines the key developmental and governance challenges. Secondly, it performs a historical odyssey in order to assess which previous attempts have been made to regulate the system, and what we have learnt from them. At its core we find three contemporary tools developed to accommodate a sharpening regional politics with urgent development imperatives, all emanating from the MRC. These are the Water Utilization Project (WUP), the IWRM Strategic Framework, and the Basin Development Plan (BDP). They are scrutinized before we conclude that the MRC-agreement, as well as these three tools, have delivered valuable input to basin governance. Simultaneously we are pointing out that they have not provided the final solution for how to deal with the accelerating urge for exploitation of the system’s natural resources.

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Sections of this chapter occurred in Phillips 2006, but have been revised, added, and updated.

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Notes

  1. 1.

     The Mekong River is also known as the Dza-chu in Tibet, Lancang Jiang in China, Mae Nam Khong in Thailand, Mae Khong in Laos, Mekongk in Cambodia, and Cuu Long in Vietnam.

  2. 2.

     The People’s Republic of China, termed ‘China’ here for convenience.

  3. 3.

     The central highlands of Vietnam and parts of the north of the country are also located within the Mekong River basin.

  4. 4.

     What possibly was the largest fish ever caught in fresh water was brought up in the Mekong system, in Thailand. It was a giant catfish measuring 300 kg, ‘being the size of a Grizzly bear’. These giant catfish are rare these days and the discussion on the diminishing stock is directly connected to dambuilding and blasting of rock formations (Mydans, The New York Times, August 26, 2005).

  5. 5.

     Several of these controversial issues will be discussed at length below.

  6. 6.

     The formal name of the agreement is: ‘Agreement on the cooperation for the sustainable development of the Mekong River Basin.’

  7. 7.

     The descriptive aspect of the review of the three core programmes below is collected from the MRC material.

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Correspondence to Joakim Öjendal .

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Öjendal, J., Jensen, K.M. (2011). Politics and Development of the Mekong River Basin: Transboundary Dilemmas and Participatory Ambitions. In: Öjendal, J., Hansson, S., Hellberg, S. (eds) Politics and Development in a Transboundary Watershed. Springer, Dordrecht. https://doi.org/10.1007/978-94-007-0476-3_3

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