Sustainable Mekong

Speeches Shim

The Lower Mekong subregion, an area comprised of five Southeast Asian countries (Burma, Cambodia, Laos, Thailand, and Vietnam), covers 1.9 million square kilometers and has a combined population of approximately 235 million.  Rapid economic growth in the Lower Mekong subregion over the past two decades has reduced poverty rates, but has also accelerated an infrastructure development trajectory that, if unchecked, will cause irrevocable harm to the region’s natural resources and environment.

Current and planned investments—especially in large-scale infrastructure and agriculture—can have significant social, environmental, and economic impacts over the short and long term.  Without sound social and environmental safeguards, projects such as hydropower dams in the Lower Mekong River Basin will disrupt the river’s major fisheries and degrade the food security, livelihoods, income opportunity, water availability, and transportation options for approximately 70 million people. Similarly, the conversion of natural forests into palm oil, rubber, timber and other commercial agricultural commodities, as well as for the development of roads, dams, mines and pipelines, threaten biodiversity in the Lower Mekong countries.

USAID RDMA  is working with the five Lower Mekong Initiative (LMI) countries to develop a regional approach to sustainable environmental management and strengthen capacity to manage shared water resources.  USAID RDMA aims to reduce the environmental impacts of infrastructure development in the Lower Mekong by increasing the application of environmental and social safeguards and by catalyzing innovative solutions as alternatives to infrastructure projects.


SERVIR-Mekong equips governments, regional  institutions, and other key  stakeholders in the Lower Mekong countries  to employ publicly-available satellite imagery  and geospatial technologies such as mapping and analysis software.  This information is essential for improving environmental management and building greater resilience to the negative effects of climate change.

Sustainable Infrastructure for the Mekong 

Sustaining broad-based economic growth in the Lower Mekong will depend on “smart” infrastructure that supports the region’s burgeoning human capital and protects the natural resources on which future growth is based. Sustainable Infrastructure for the Mekong (SIM) provides Lower Mekong Initiative partner countries with rapidly deployable technical assistance from the U.S. Government’s premier scientists and engineers to mitigate potential negative social and environmental consequences from large infrastructure projects.  USAID’s work with government partners is based on shared goals and objectives that support governments in the management of their own development.

USAID Green Invest Asia

Economic growth and development in Asia, especially in commercial agricultural production, is driving deforestation and forest degradation, resulting in rising greenhouse gas emissions (GHGs).  The estimated demand for additional green investment in the Association of Southeast Asian Nations food, agriculture, and land use market is $400 billion through 2030. Achieving such a target can improve the bottom line and position companies for better market access, with greater investment opportunities from banks and impact investors.  The U.S. Government recognizes the important role of forests—in storing carbon, conserving biodiversity, supporting local livelihoods, and providing critical goods and services—and the connection between sustainable land use practices and companies and investors’ performance. USAID Green Invest Asia works with mid-growth agriculture and forestry businesses in Southeast Asia to improve their sustainable commodity production, prepare them for investment, and help them access untapped sources of capital.  By 2022, USAID Green Invest Asia aims to mobilize $400 million of private finance into sustainable commodity production, leading to the reduction of 25 million tons of CO2 equivalent GHGs. 

USAID Clean Power Asia

In recent decades, Asia has experienced unprecedented economic growth and benefitted from an international technological transition that now renders clean energy cost-competitive.  Improving the health of the region’s energy sector and increasing private-sector investment is foundational to the region’s future economic growth, self-reliance, and resilience.  In support of the Asia Enhancing Development and Growth through Energy (Asia EDGE) initiative, USAID’s assistance supports programs that accelerate the growth of the region’s energy markets in four key areas:  utility modernization, increased deployment of advanced energy systems, transparent and best-value procurement, and regional energy trade and integration.  USAID Clean Power Asia aims to accelerate investment in clean energy technologies and promote regional collaboration to improve clean energy policy decision-making and innovation.