The Mekong Environment and Resource Institute (MERI) was established in 1999 as a multidisciplinary center for research focusing on the Greater Mekong Sub-region. The concept of the Institute originated with the founding president, Dr. Tongroj Onchan, former president of Thailand Environment Institute (TEI)and currently, a member of the National Environment Board and the founding Chairman of the Mekong Environment and Resource Foundation, Mr. Petipong Pungbun Na Ayudhya, a senior official of the Thailand's Ministry of Agriculture and Cooperatives . They shared their concern about the serious mismanagement of natural resources and degradation of environmental quality which will undermine sustainable development of countries in the sub-region served by the Mekong River.

Dr. Tongroj and Mr. Petipong have inspired a professional cadre of specialists, all with significant experience in the region, to join forces and apply a broad range of competency to formulate policy options to address anticipated environmental conflicts in the region. The founders of MERI and their associates possess the wisdom and confidence needed to design and promote integrated conservation and development policies that are responsive to the environmental needs of communities throughout the region. The professionals at MERI agree that the sustainable use of forest, water, and land resources is best achieved through an ecosystem management approach. It is a combination of this unity of thinking, commitment to meeting professional obligations, and inclination to maintain the integrity of the Mekong's ecosystems that serve to bind the competent practitioners at MERI. It is in this spirit that MERI is rooted and traces its origins.

Main task of The Mekong Environment and Resource Institute is to conduct research on the issues and impacts resulting from development of the Greater Mekong Region overall, and the Mekong River Basin in particular. The Institute is founded in the belief that cooperation and collaboration among the peoples and governments of the Greatre Mekong Region are the most effective means to achieve the sustainable devolopment of national economies, while protecting essential natural resources, preserving biological diversity, and ensuring the social well-being, culture and traditions, and heritage of communities sharing the Mekong River, its resource and its bounty.

The Greater Mekong Region      The Mekong is the world's tenth longest river, spanning a wide range of altitude, latitude, climate and vegetation zones along its 4,180 - 4,500 kilometer length, covering the area of 785,500 - 802,900 square kilometers. The four lower riparian countries; -Thailand, Cambodia, Laos and Vietnam contain 77 percent of the Mekong river basin area and account for more than four-fifth of the water that passes through the Basin annually.

The life of several hundred million people in the Greater Mekong Region are either directly or indirectly linked to the Mekong River in China, Myanmar, Laos, Cambodia, Vietnam and Thailand. The great majority of the basin's inhabitants are farmers and fishers, many of them poor, who rely directly on the natural resource base for food, water, transport, and numerous other facts of their daily lives. The integrity of the Basin's ecology is vital to their social, culture, and economic well-being.

Although existing dams regulate less tham five percent of the water in the Mekong Basin, in recent years more than 100 large dams have been proposed for the region. Within the next decade, international investment in the Greater Mekong River Basin will total tens of billion of US dollars for an internal system of road and rail links, irrigation projects, and other infrastructure units. This intensive level of development will have significant impacts on the livelyhood of communities, on their cultures and ways of life, and on the natural ecology of the Mekong River system and the environment of the Asian Region.

Population growth accelerated economic development, and civil disorder, prevailing in the Greater Mekong Region since the middle of the 20th century have contributed significantly to degradation of the natural resources in the Basin and the poverty of many inhabitants. Serioue deforestation of upper watershed and lowland forests have resulted in a cycle of wet season flooding and dry season droughts. Agricultural and industrial expansion have led to an increase in competition for land and water resources in the Basin and throughout Asia, that are leaving behind a legacy of the waste and poisions. There is an urgent need to address these issues in the spirit of regional coopration, with the goal of providing improved management of human and natural resources for the sustainable development of the Greater Mekong River Basin.