The Lower Mekong: Challenge to Cooperation in Southeast Asia

The Lower Mekong: Challenge to Cooperation in Southeast Asia

The Lower Mekong: Challenge to Cooperation in Southeast Asia

The Lower Mekong: Challenge to Cooperation in Southeast Asia

Excerpt

This book combines two points of view to present an account of one of the greatest economic developments of our time--one surveying the general environment and political climate, the other focusing attention on the work at hand. The setting is Southeast Asia, specifically that part of the Indochina Peninsula drained by the lower reaches of the Mekong River. Here one of the mightiest streams in the world is in the process of being harnessed for the advantage of mankind. Either directly or indirectly, some 40 million inhabitants in this corner of Asia stand to benefit from the multiple uses of running water. In fact, the project under discussion is scheduled to ultimately outshadow in dimensions and scope the much- vaunted Tennessee Valley Authority with which Americans are so familiar. Moreover, the over-all plan, under the sponsorship of the United Nations, cuts across the international boundaries of four sovereign states, signaling successful cooperation among nations in an unsettled part of a troubled world.

The first half of the book, delving into the broader aspects of the region itself, reflects the views of Professor Russell H. Fifield of the University of Michigan. A political analyst and authority on Southeast Asia, he has several times visited the states of the Lower Mekong: Thailand, Cambodia, Laos, and Vietnam. His experiences include personal interviews with government leaders and prominent personalities in those countries, thus augmenting his ability to assess the political situation so critical in understanding and appreciating the action taking place. Although the actual development of the Mekong Project began only in the middle 1950's, its concept, encompassing a myriad of ramifications, is perforce superimposed upon centuries of traditions, aspirations, prejudices, and conflicts inherited by the present inhabitants.

In its second half the book proceeds at a markedly different tempo. One finds a down-to-earth explanation of the physical characteristics . . .

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