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May 06, 2024 / 12:17

Vietnam calls for full impact assessment of Cambodia’s Funan Techo project

Vietnam urges Cambodia to implement effective management measures for equitable sharing and sustainable use of Mekong River water resources among riparian nations.

Vietnam has called upon Cambodia to coordinate with all relevant parties to thoroughly assess the impact of the Funan Techo Canal project on the water source and ecological environment of the Mekong River basin.

 MOFA Spokesperson Pham Thu Hang. Source: MOFA

"Vietnam always supports, celebrates, and highly appreciates the achievements Cambodia has made in recent times," said Pham Thu Hang, spokesperson for the Ministry of Foreign Affairs, on May 5 in response to Cambodia's recent statements on the implementation of the Funan Techo Canal project.

Hang said that Vietnam closely follows the Funan Techo Canal project and respects Cambodia's legitimate interests in line with the 1995 Mekong Agreement, relevant regulations of the Mekong River Commission, and the traditional friendly neighborly relations between the two countries.

"We hope that Cambodia will continue to work in strong cooperation with Vietnam and other countries in the Mekong River Commission to share information and fully assess the impact of this project on the water, water resources, and ecological environment of the Mekong River basin," the foreign ministry spokesperson said.

She added that Vietnam also hopes that Cambodia will take appropriate management measures to ensure the harmonization of riparian countries' interests and the efficient and sustainable management and use of Mekong River water resources for the sustainable development of the basin, solidarity among riparian countries, and the future of coming generations.

Approved by the Cambodian Cabinet in May 2023, the Funan Techo Canal project is estimated to be 180 km long and will connect the Phnom Penh river port to the Gulf of Thailand in southwestern Cambodia, passing through the provinces of Kandal, Takeo, Kampot, and Kep. According to documents submitted by Cambodia to the Mekong River Commission in August 2023, the Funan Techo Canal is scheduled to be operational in 2028. The project, estimated to cost $1.7 billion, is expected to be carried out by a Chinese company under a build-operate-transfer model.

The canal will be the first waterway linking Phnom Penh to the coastal province of Kep. Cambodian Government officials and analysts believe that the project could help boost the country's economic development by facilitating the transportation of goods between the port of Phnom Penh and the deep-sea port in Sihanoukville province.

In addition to the transportation and logistical benefits that the Funan Techo Canal will bring to Cambodia, some regional and international experts have raised concerns about the project's impact on the flow of the Mekong River downstream, where the Mekong Delta is facing numerous environmental challenges.

Vietnam's National Mekong Committee, in collaboration with the Secretariat of the International Mekong River Commission, convened a consultation meeting on April 23 on the project. During the meeting, delegates raised concerns about various aspects of the project, particularly its potential impacts on water resources in the Mekong Delta. Of particular concern was the escalating frequency and severity of saline intrusion.

The Funan Techo Canal project aims to divert water from the Bassac River, a tributary of the Mekong River, to the port of Kep, which is located outside the basin. This diversion has led to alarm about the potential depletion of water resources in the Mekong Delta, which could adversely affect local livelihoods, economic activities, and natural ecosystems.