Asian-Pacific experts have warned of greater challenges and a rapid reduction in water resources quality, along with changes in currents when water shortages become severe.

At the first session of the Council for Security Cooperation in the Asia Pacific (CSCAP) Study Group on Water Resources Security that wrapped up in Hanoi on March 23, Swedish scholar Maria Larsson said that the Asia-Pacific, especially the Mekong river basin, will lack water in the next decade due to current utilisation and management of water resources.

At the two-day session, other scholars warned that along with rapid urbanisation and industrialisation processes, the increasing use of chemical fertiliser in agriculture and the discharge of untreated urban waste water directly into rivers have severely polluted surface and underground water.

On the other hand, they said, the plan to build dams on the Mekong river’s main currents will seriously change the river’s currents, reduce by more than half the amount of silt running into the lower basin, destroy the biodiversity of the lower river basin and create other unpredictable effects on the river estuary, they said.

Scholars said the institutional environment and current regional cooperation have so far failed to ensure regional water resources security.

They emphasised the necessity for countries along the Mekong river to immediately make public information on the utilisation of water resources and share data on the river currents.

They also called for China and Myanmar’s early admission to the Mekong River Commission as full members, for more effective cooperation.

A Thai scholar suggested increasing ASEAN’s role in enhancing cooperation in protecting water resources and bring the issue of protecting the Mekong river into the ASEAN agenda.

Meanwhile, Japanese Professor Mikiyasu Nakayama said it was necessary to discuss water resources security at the ASEAN Regional Forum (ARF).

Delegate of the Asia-Pacific Socio-Economic Committee (ESCAP) of the UN Le Huu Ti said that ASEAN should play a key role at the Asia-Pacific Water Summit slated for 2012 in Bangkok.

Delegates exchanged ideas on cooperation in protecting the ecological environment and increasing the effectiveness of water resource utilisation, waste water treatment, and coping with the impacts of climate change and rising sea level.

The US and Australian scholars said that many lessons on sharing water resources in other regions can be applied to the Mekong river basin.

The second session of the CSCAP Study Group will be organised in Cambodia by the second half of 2011. It is expected to discuss concrete measures to enhance international and regional cooperation in protecting regional water resources./.