Greater Mekong Subregion

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The sunrise in Mekong River in Phnom Penh, Cambodia.

The Greater Mekong Subregion, or just Greater Mekong, is an international region of the Mekong River basin in Southeast Asia. The region is home to more than 300 million people and was designated with the launch of a development program in 1992 by the Asian Development Bank, that brought together the six states of Cambodia, China (specifically Yunnan Province and Guangxi Zhuang Autonomous Region), Laos, Myanmar, Thailand, and Vietnam.[1]

Greater Mekong holds irreplaceable natural and cultural riches and is considered one of the world's most significant biodiversity hotspot. The region is a very important food provider and the site of many large-scale construction projects with social and economic implications.[2]

Regional cooperation[edit]

For more than two decades, the six countries of the Greater Mekong Subregion have been working together under an economic cooperation program[3] to realize their vision of a prosperous, integrated, and harmonious subregion.

The GMS Program has adopted a three-pronged strategy (the 3 Cs):

  1. Strengthening connectivity through physical infrastructure and the development of economic corridors.
  2. Improving competitiveness through market integration and the facilitation of cross-border trade and travel.
  3. Building a sense of community by addressing shared social and environmental concerns.

The GMS Program, with the support of development partners, helps identify and implement high-priority subregional projects in a wide range of sectors: agriculture, energy, environment, health and human resource development, information and communication technology, tourism, transport, transport and trade facilitation, and urban development.

Substantial progress has been achieved in implementing GMS projects since 1992. More than $20 billion in investments have been directly channeled through the program.

Since 1998, the GMS Program has been using economic corridors to promote economic growth and development. Economic corridors are investment areas, usually running along major highways, which connect centers of economic activity. Three main economic corridors are being developed in the Greater Mekong Subregion—the North-South Economic Corridor, the Southern Economic Corridor, and the East-West Economic Corridor.[4]

In September 2017, the 22nd Ministerial Conference in Ha Noi, Viet Nam endorsed the medium-term pipeline of priority projects from 2018 to 2022. The rolling pipeline comprises more than 200 investment and technical assistance projects, which will require more than $60 billion in financing.[5]

On 31 March 2018, the 6th GMS Summit of Leaders in Ha Noi adopted the Ha Noi Action Plan and the Regional Investment Framework 2022.[6]

Landscape and biodiversity[edit]

The Mekong River in Amphoe Khong Chiam, Thailand (more images).

The region has a diverse geographic landscape including massifs, plateaus, and limestone karsts, lowlands, fertile floodplains and deltas, forests (evergreen and semi-evergreen, deciduous, dipterocarp, mangroves, and swamp), and grasslands. Water environments include fast-flowing rocky mountain streams and wetlands (such as Tonlé Sap in Cambodia).[7]

The region's geographic variety and consequent variety of climatic zones supports significant biodiversity, with more than a thousand new species discovered in the first decade of the 2000s. The geographic region encapsulates 16 of the WWF Global 200 ecoregions, and habitats for an estimated 20,000 plant species, 1,300 fish species, 1,200 bird species, 800 reptile and amphibian species, and 430 mammal species. Notable species include the Javan rhino, Irrawaddy dolphins, and Mekong giant catfish (one of the largest freshwater fish).[7] Furthermore, WWF reported that in 2016, 115 new species were discovered in the region, comprising three mammals, two fish, 11 reptiles, 11 amphibians, and 88 plants. This brings the total amount of discovered species in the Greater Mekong Subregion from 1997 to 2016 to 2,524.[8]

The region's biodiversity is ranked as a top-five most threatened hotspot by Conservation International. The WWF cites accelerating economic development, population growth and increased consumption patterns as primary causes, including agricultural deforestation, logging and illegal timber trade, wildlife trade, overfishing, dam and road construction, and mining. The WWF also states that the region is particularly vulnerable to global climate change.[7]


With the rapid development in the region, conservation efforts to protect natural resources, habitats, biodiversity and local cultures in the Greater Mekong has become urgent. The most pressing current threats are hydropower development, climate change, illegal wildlife trade, and habitat loss.[2]

Construction and industry[edit]

The harvesting and production of natural resources in the Greater Mekong Subregion (sometimes abbreviated GMS) is of significant economic importance, with the retail value of Mekong river fisheries alone estimated at more than US$4 billion annually.[9]

In the last decades, the Greater Mekong Subregion has also become a major site for large-scale construction projects and a rapid economic development, including hydropower damming, mining, forestry and industrial productions.[2]

The combination of these factors has raised environmental concerns internationally since the mid 2000s. For now, it has resulted in formulation of environmental programmes and strategy proposals and strategy developments of a sustainable green growth economy for this region. It has been attained by influential organizations like the United Nations (UNEP and FAO), WWF, PROFOR and others, in high-level collaboration with the governmental ministries of the countries comprising the Greater Mekong Subregion.[9] [10][11][12]


Notable organizations involved in the Greater Mekong Subregion includes:

See also[edit]


  1. ^ "About the Greater Mekong Subregion". Greater Mekong Subregion Secretariat, Asian Development Bank. Retrieved 29 May 2017. 
  2. ^ a b c "Greater Mekong". WWF. Retrieved 18 November 2015. 
  3. ^ Bank, Asian Development (2015-05-18). Greater Mekong Subregion Economic Cooperation Program: Overview. Asian Development Bank. 
  4. ^ "Economic Corridors in the Greater Mekong Subregion | Greater Mekong Subregion". Retrieved 2017-06-13. 
  5. ^ "Ministers Endorse $64 Billion Project Plan under Strategy for Mekong". ADB news release, Greater Mekong Subregion website. 2017-09-20. Retrieved 2017-10-26. 
  6. ^ "Joint Summit Declaration: 6th GMS Summit of Leaders". Greater Mekong Subregion. Retrieved 2018-04-18. 
  7. ^ a b c "First Contact in the Greater Mekong: new species discoveries". World Wide Fund for Nature (WWF). 2012. Retrieved 29 August 2017. 
  8. ^ "Stranger Species". Retrieved 2017-12-19. 
  9. ^ a b "Green Economy in the Greater Mekong". WWF. Retrieved 18 November 2015. 
  10. ^ "UNEP - Regional Office for Asia Pacific - Mainstreaming Environment through Regional Forums". UNEP. Retrieved 18 November 2015. 
  11. ^ "Mekong River Commission (MRC)". FOA. Retrieved 18 November 2015. 
  12. ^ "Forest Law Enforcement and Governance in the Mekong Region". Program on Forests (PROFOR). 12 April 2011. Retrieved 19 November 2015. 

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