Sustainable Development & River Basin Management: From the Mekong to the Mississippi

Hydropower development in the Mekong basin has long been contentious as six riparian countries pursue individual, project-by-project development schemes for use of the river’s water. China’s existing cascade of dams upstream in Yunnan province and Laos’ plans for nine mainstream dams on the lower Mekong generate significant political fault lines in Thailand, Cambodia, and Vietnam over the impacts of hydropower on fisheries and agricultural yields. Here in the U.S., the development of America’s rivers, past and present, has run into similar challenges of balancing the needs of a wide variety of national, state, and local stakeholders in the face of climate change impacts and ongoing concerns about the sustainable utilization of water across multiple sectors. 

Under the Lower Mekong Initiative, the U.S. Department of State and the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers (USACE) has supported the Mekong-Mississippi Sister River Partnership since 2011 to enhance the sharing of best practices between the Mekong River Commission and the Mississippi River Commission. In the days leading up to this panel, the Mekong River Commission will tour some of the Mississippi River Commission’s projects in Louisiana and Mississippi.
This panel discussion brought the CEO of the Mekong River Commission and ministerial officials from the government of Laos together with representatives from U.S. river basin management agencies to exchange ideas and best practices on transboundary river management. Equally important, the event sought to improve understanding of the development challenges in the Mekong and provided an update on the status of the Mekong River Commission. This was the first public appearance of the Mekong River Commission’s new CEO Pham Tuan Phan in the United States. CEO Phan is the first CEO of the MRC to come from a Mekong riparian country.

WHAT: Discussion on sustainable development and river basin management practices with case studies from the United States and Southeast Asia’s Mekong Basin.


Aaron Salzberg (moderator), Special Coordinator for Water Resources in the Bureau of Oceans, Environment, and Science Affairs at the State Department
Pham Tuan Phan, CEO of the Mekong River Commission
Eugene Stakhiv, Fellow at the Institute of Water Resources of the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers
Willem Brakel, Representative for the District of Columbia on the Interstate Commission on the Potomac River Basin
Jerry Bisson, Director of the Technical Support Office of the Asia Bureau at USAID
TBD Official from Ministry of Natural Resources and the Environment from Laos

Photo credit: Asian Developement Bank via Flickr
Part of the Mekong Policy Project
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