Four Mekong Delta countries – Vietnam, Laos, Thailand and Cambodia have agreed to assess the current level of plastic pollution in the Mekong River, in a joint effort to reduce plastic waste in the Mekong region. In a meeting hosted by the Mekong River Commission and the United Nations Environment Programme in Vientiane last week, 50 government officials and researchers from the four countries drafted policy recommendations to address the growing problem of plastic waste in the area.
“The assessment will provide the four Mekong countries with scientific evidence and information on plastic debris, plastic pollution and its threat to the environment and people,” says Kakuko Nagatani-Yoshida, the UNEP Regional Coordinator for Chemicals, Waste and Air Quality.
The assessment is to take place in five sites across the region – Vietnam’s Can Tho, Phnom Penh in Cambodia, Vientiane in Laos as well as Thailand’s Chiang Rai and Ubon Ratchathani. Conducted by four universities, the research will include collecting samples of waste leakage and plastic debris and will result in reports on the domestic state of affairs in terms of plastic pollution in the four respective countries.
According to a 2017 study published in Environmental Science & Technology, an academic journal quoted by the Mekong River Commission, the Mekong is one of ten rivers in the world that collectively pollute the Earth’s oceans with 88-95 percent of plastic.
In a United Nations report last year, Southeast Asian countries were flagged as among the worst polluters of oceans in the world. With their populations rising sharply and demand for consumer products booming, countries across the region are yet to learn effective methods for waste disposal – especially Vietnam, Thailand, Indonesia and the Philippines, the four countries accounting for more than a half of all the waste leaking into oceans in Southeast Asia.