Cambodia took center stage during the EU-ASEAN Diplomacy Week, led by His Excellency, Dr. Eang Sophalleth, on October 22, 2023. The focal point of this event was the pressing concerns regarding the Mekong River, and it unified the entire nation in its pledge to protect this vital lifeline for the benefit of future generations.
The Mekong River, a source of sustenance for countless communities and ecosystems over centuries, faces unprecedented challenges. Climate change and extensive infrastructure development have brought about a concerning rise in low-flow and water scarcity. Additionally, the Mekong has gained a disheartening distinction as one of the world’s leading marine plastic polluters, with over 37,000 tons of plastic waste infiltrating its waters annually. The Mekong’s plastic pollution crisis stands as a stark reminder of the extensive scope of environmental issues. It indicates that these problems know no borders; they are global challenges that demand a unified, international effort. The Minister quotes, “being mere spectators is not an option as we witness this crucial natural resource deteriorate further.”
The people of Cambodia recognize that environmental issues have no borders and require global cooperation. Dr. Eang Sophalleth’s message, delivered during the EU-ASEAN Green Diplomacy Week, resonated with the nation. He highlighted the “Today I Do Not Use Plastic Bags” campaign, initiated by the Ministry of Environment, which encourages each individual to make conscious choices to reduce plastic waste and promote sustainable development. The campaign, launched on September 1, 2023, has already exceeded expectations. More than 1.6 million students have actively participated, demonstrating the collective commitment of Cambodians to combat plastic pollution. Civil society organizations, the Cambodian Red Cross, diplomats, and various partners have rallied together to support this crucial cause.
What sets this campaign apart is the involvement of Cambodia’s children and young people, whose passion for change has inspired individuals of all ages. Their collective effort not only sustains the momentum of the movement but also shapes the behaviors of current and future generations. Cambodia extends an open invitation to its fellow ASEAN nations to join the collective endeavor against plastic pollution, symbolized by the campaign slogan “Today I Do Not Use Plastic Bags.” The nation is eager to establish bilateral cooperation with neighboring countries within the region. Plans are underway to solidify this commitment, which may include the signing of a memorandum of understanding in the near future.
The EU-ASEAN Green Diplomacy Week emphasizes the importance of international cooperation and diplomacy in addressing environmental challenges. Minister Eang Sophalleth expressed his appreciation for the collaborative efforts of the European Union, ASEAN, and the River Ocean Cleanup organization. Their collective actions to raise awareness about the challenges faced by the Mekong River align perfectly with Cambodia’s commitment to protecting this vital resource, acknowledging the broader, global responsibility that it entails. As the curtains close on this significant week, Cambodia encourages all to support collaborative initiatives, advocate for stricter environmental regulations, and actively engage in grassroots efforts to reduce plastic waste, promote sustainable development, and combat climate change. Together, Cambodia and its neighboring nations can make a substantial difference, securing the future of the Mekong River as a symbol of hope and resilience for generations to come. By taking these initiatives, Cambodia can serve as an inspiring model extending far beyond its borders, contributing to a cleaner, greener, and more sustainable future for the entire world.