Japan backs Mekong fish friendly irrigation scheme

VIENTIANE (Vientiane Times/ANN) - The Japanese government has pledged to continue its support for the Mekong River Commission (MRC) to implement a regional project to promote the installation of fish passages in irrigation facilities in the Mekong basin.

A senior official from the Japanese Ministry of Agriculture, Forestry and Fisheries, Mr Hidefumi Murashita, and his delegation reaffirmed their government’s commitment of US$1.4 million to finance this MRC project during a meeting with the MRC CEO, Mr Pham Tuan Phan, in Vientiane last week.

The installation of fish passages in irrigation systems is believed to be one of the scientific solutions to address the problem of fish migration in Laos, Cambodia, Vietnam and Thailand. The fish migration improvement is said to create better conditions for fish to breed and increase their population, one of key elements to ensure food security in the region.     

In addition to the fish migration promotion, the MRC project, scheduled to run from 2017 to 2021, is designed to monitor agricultural land use changes and improve the regional irrigation database. The project also aims to support sustainable groundwater use and management for crop production across the lower basin.

“Poverty reduction through improved irrigation is the key objective of development cooperation of Japan. We support MRC in this area because we believe agriculture is an important intervention for reducing poverty,” said Mr Murashita, who is the Deputy Director of the Overseas Land Improvement Cooperation Office at the Japanese Ministry of Agriculture, Forestry and Fisheries.

According to a statement from MRC, the Japanese support is in line with the MRC’s Strategic Plan for 2016-20, which captures the future needs of the basin in terms of irrigation expansion and addressing key challenges in the sustainable use of water of the lower Mekong basin.

“This support from the Japanese government will assist the MRC to bring about more efficient practices on irrigation planning and better promote our efforts to improve livelihoods and mitigate environmental impacts from irrigation in the basin,” Mr Pham said.

The Japanese government is one of the long-standing development partners of the MRC. Since 2001, Japan has granted more than US$13 million to support several projects, including those on flood and drought management, irrigation, safe navigation, climate change and environmental management.

The government of Japan believes the current financial support will be used to strengthen economic opportunities through agriculture and irrigation, which millions of people depend on for their main income and food sources.

Late last month, Japan and the MRC launched a study on forest conservation and river basin management in the lower Mekong basin to better manage and conserve the environmental health of the region. The study covers the five Mekong countries of Cambodia, Laos, Thailand, Vietnam and Myanmar, and will be completed in March 2019.