The Lower Mekong region — comprising Cambodia, Laos, Thailand and Vietnam — is united by a common natural heritage of forests, floodplains, and inland waterways. The Mekong River and its tributaries provide water, food, energy, and transportation to over 60 million inhabitants and sustain one of the most bio-diverse ecosystems on earth. In July 2009, the United States joined these countries to launch the Lower Mekong Initiative to promote cooperation on issues of regional importance. Since then, the United States has launched or expanded a number of projects to promote better management of these natural resources, a key to the sustainable development of the region.
Strengthening Water Management: The Mississippi River Commission and the Mekong River Commission launched a “sister-river partnership” in 2010 to promote cooperation and share best practices in areas such as integrated floodplain management, climate change adaptation, and sustainable basin development.
Cleaning up waterways: In 2010, the United States joined with the Mekong River Commission and local communities to improve regional coordination in managing pollution from agricultural and mining runoff, sewage, and waste-water as well as industrial pollution.
Protecting Forests: National Park Service staff developed a dynamic, field-level exchange program to provide land management, stewardship, and law enforcement training for rangers in Cambodia’s Samlaut Protected Area, part of a sister-park relationship to build local capacity to protect this ecosystem from deforestation, wildlife trafficking, and other illicit activities.
Building Science Partnerships: In December 2009, the U.S. Geological Survey and Vietnam’s Can Tho University brought together scientists and experts from throughout the region to share information on the impact of climate change and human activities on the ecology and food security of the Mekong basin.
Advancing Clean Energy: Through the Methane-to-Markets Partnership initiative, the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency is working with the livestock and food processing industries in Thailand and Vietnam to capture methane release from swine farms and convert it into electricity, thus reducing greenhouse gas emissions.