U.S. Army Corps of Engineers, Mississippi Valley Division returns from the Mekong

Published 12:46 pm Thursday, July 28, 2022

Leaders from the Mekong River Commission and Mississippi River Commission completed a two-country engagement from July 10 to 16, 2022, as part of a collective effort to address global water challenges and share best practices for international river sustainability.

Throughout the visit, leaders from the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers and the Mississippi River Commission toured sites along the Mekong River in Laos and Cambodia. Mississippi River Commission President, Maj. Gen. Diana Holland highlighted the valuable collaboration and increased understanding of the common challenges and opportunities presented by the respective river basins.

“Together, the world faces new and evolving challenges. Climate change—and it’s anticipated effects like prolonged droughts, changing weather patterns, and food insecurity—will create new barriers for vulnerable and at-risk communities to access clean drinking water and sufficient food sources. It is essential that we work together, across national and regional boundaries, to confront these emerging challenges,” stated Holland.

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While similarities between the Mekong and Mississippi rivers may not be obvious at first glance, they share many likenesses. In addition to both rivers representing a significant watershed in their respective regions, the rivers share similar challenges such as saltwater intrusion, riverbank erosion, evolving hydrology and climate change.

By pairing the Mekong River Commission, which includes four member countries from Cambodia, Laos, Thailand and Vietnam, with the Mississippi River Commission, the program joins expert teams from the United States and Mekong River Commission countries to share best practices regarding water management in order to address these shared challenges. “At its core, the partnership offers a platform for both commissions to learn from each other and to join together to promote sustainable water management,” stated Holland.

During the visit, leaders witnessed the importance of the Mekong River and its value to the community in Laos and Cambodia. The delegation also conducted seven official engagements that included the Mekong River Commission Secretariat and several ministries in member countries. The key moment in the trip included the signing of a new Memorandum of Understanding, committing the two commissions to continue the partnership and exchange visits for the next five years.

Mekong River Commission Secretariat CEO, Dr. Anoulak Kittihoun who attended the signing ceremony said, “This kind of cooperation is invaluable to us, considering the challenges we face today. They (U.S.) have much experience with river and water resource management, especially with the operation of dams and adapting designs, that the Mekong countries and the public can definitely benefit from these areas. Through this exchange of lessons learned – then the technical cooperation that results from the MoU – we can also learn what shortcomings were made in the past, which we can consider and avoid repeating here in the Mekong.”

Holland echoed similar sentiments saying, “I look forward to continued collaboration with our Mekong partners, and I eagerly await the opportunity to warmly welcome our friends from the Mekong River Commission and National Mekong Committee members to visit the Mississippi River for the next Sister River Partnership exchange.”

For more than a decade, this partnership has served as one of the U.S. flagship initiatives resulting in the sharing of best practices in water management, that enhance transboundary river governance, disaster risk mitigation and sustainable development.

Partnerships are critical to the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers’ success in delivering vital engineering solutions to solve the nation’s toughest challenges, and in their collective ability to meet complex global challenges.