Mobilizing Asia's resources to meet man's growing
needs is often crippled by narrow sectional and traditional loyalties. Such shortsighted
insistence upon more immediate and personal advantage frustrates rational solutions to
many common problems.
Since it was established nine years ago, the MEKONG COMMITTEE has shown what can be
achieved for farmers, fishermen and new industry by international cooperative effort in
one of the world's most troubled regions. Created in response to a recommendation of the
United Nations Economic Commission for Asia and the Far East, this COMMITTEE joins
Cambodia, Laos, Thailand and Vietnam in common utilization of the immense potential of the
Mekong River. Technical and financial assistance has come from 21 countries outside the
basin, 12 United Nations agencies, three foundations and a number of private business
organizations. To date, equipment, technical services, grants and loans totalling some
US$105 million have been marshalledabout one-third pledged by the four riparian
The hitherto untamed Mekongone of the world's 10 1argest riversrises among the
snows high on the Tibetan Plateau and has carved a twisting course, often through rugged
mountains, some 4,600 kilometers to the South China Sea. The Lower Mekong Basin, which is
the focus of this effort, extends for some 2,500 kilometers from the forests of the Burma
border, through Laos, along the dry northeastern frontier of Thailand, through jungles and
deltas of Cambodia and Vietnam. It drains an area nearly twice the size of Japan that is
inhabited by some 20 million persons.
Extensive studies by teams of scientists and engineers from the riparian and cooperating
nations have now produced an overall Basin Plan with both mainstream and tributary
projects. These multi-purpose projects will provide irrigation, power, vastly improved
navigation, expanded fisheries, control of seasonal floods and many other benefits.
Navigation improvements now permit night sailing upriver to Phnom Penh. In November 1965
the King of Thailand inaugurated at Nam Pung one of the two electric power and irrigation
projects already completed. Construction is underway on four other tributary projects and
one tug and barge building program.
Among projects for the mainstream of the Mekong, three have a "one" priority. At
Pa Mong, just above Vientiane, a massive dam between Thailand and Laos will create a
reservoir more than 200 miles long, have an installed generating capacity of over one
million kilowatts and irrigate roughly one million hectares, or two and one-half million
acres. Sambor, in Cambodia, will be the site of a second major power and irrigation dam. A
barrage across the Tonle Sap waterway in Cambodia, that each year alternately admits
Mekong water to the Great Lake and then drains it, will amplify fisheries and irrigation
and hold back silt from delta lands in Vietnam while deepening water in the shipping
channel to the sea.
When the Lower Mekong Basin program for the period 1965 to 1975 is completed at an
estimated cost of more than three billion dollars, the largest single natural resource of
southeast Asia will be substantially under productive control. The fact that, despite
turmoil, war and other differences in the region, so much headway has been made represents
a triumph of reason and consideration of mutual well-being.
In electing the COMMITTEE FOR COORDINATION OF INVESTIGATIONS OF THE LOWER MEKONG BASIN and
COOPERATING ENTITIES to receive the 1966 Ramon Magsaysay Award for International
Understanding, the Board of Trustees recognizes purposeful progress toward harnessing one
of Asia's greatest river systems, setting aside divisive national interests in deference
to regional opportunities.