- By Omar Kyaw
(University of Yangon)
The river named “Mekong” is a trans-boundary one which is a vital river for daily life of many people living along the river. From the Yushu Plateau of People’s Republic of China (PRC) in the North (Upper basin of Lantsang-Mekong), Lantsang-Mekong River flows to the countries of Indo-China Peninsula namely Vietnam, Laos, Cambodia, Myanmar and Thailand in the South (Lower Basin of Mekong River). It is the twelth longest river in the world and seventh longest river for Asia. Although Lantsang-Mekong River flows along the Eastern extremity of Myanmar boundary which is about 217 miles only, it is a major source of water and transportation for other countries in the region.
Now, countries along the Mekong River are trying for the development and conservation of Lantsang-Mekong River bilaterally and multilaterally. There are many researchers, scientists and technical experts who are trying to maintain the sustainability of Lantsang-Mekong River and its water resource management. In this context, under the cooperation and initiation of Guangxi University and Fudan University of PRC and Shanghai International Cultural Association, Youth Innovation Competition on Lantsang-Mekong Region’s Governance and Development (YICMG) have been launched with the aim of nurturing the young generation as a competent generation for the world in carrying out sustainable development. It is now coming up as an innovation program initiated by the young university students of Lantsang-Mekong region.
Since July 2015 Lantsang-Mekong International Summer Camp for College Students had been launched. Many regional governmental staff, scholars and university students actively participated in this program. This Summer Camp Program became a good foundation for the introduction of YICMG for regional cultural exchange and inter-connectivity with community living along Lantsang-Mekong River. The very first YICMG competition for the university students of Lantsang-Mekong Region was held in August 2016 for the first time at Nanning, Guangxi Province of PRC. Student teams from the University of Yangon were selected to compete in the First Youth Innovation Competition on Lantsan-Mekong Region’s Governance and Development. The themes of the competition were “Sustainable Management of Water and Water Environment” and “Climate Change and Cooperation against Disaster”. With the support and guidance of the International Expert Team, students from Lantsang-Mekong Region including students from the University of Yangon actively participated in the YICMG competition. Students from the Department of Industrial Chemistry of the University of Yangon received “The Most Innovation Team Award” for the First 2016 YICMG Competition.
It is the real competitions among the university students of six countries of Mekong River Region to explore more critical ideas on scientific and innovative experiments because the competitions were closely and carefully monitored by the Ministry of Foreign Affairs, Ministry of Education and Ministry of Water Resource Management of the PRC together with the support and coordination of Shanghai Municipal Government and Guangzi Zhuang Autonomous Area of Qinghai Province. During two days field trip to Upper Lantsang-Mekong River Basin in Yushu Plateau, university students from 6 countries in Mekong Region placed the remarkable international footprints on Yushu Highland.
In the context of YICMG competition, students of the University of Yangon were carrying out the research projects on sustainability of water resource, environmental conservation and eco-tourism development as a cooperation of higher education students of Lantsang-Mekong Region. In fact, YICMG is a platform for cultural diplomacy among youths and community living in that region. Through such kind of cooperation platform, the future generation of the Mekong Region will channel the avenue for good governance and development practices and behaviors for the whole region in the near future.
Students of the University of Yangon were constantly encouraged to participate in the YICMG competitions. There were increasing numbers of students who were more energetic and envied to contest in YICMG and they organized themselves into groups and teams to create and generate their own research projects for YICMG competitions in line with respective themes. Student teams were very competitive among themselves before submitting the projects to YICMG. The themes for 2017 YICMG Competition were “Mitigation of Carbon Dioxide with Effective Adsorbent and Emergency Management for Climate Change and Disaster Protection” and students from the Department of Industrial Chemistry of the University of Yangon earned “The Best Project Incubation Award” for their innovative idea to use corn (maize) cob to reduce carbon dioxide in emergency situation. Moreover, the Best Project Incubation Award was honoured to the Students from the University of Yangon who initiated the research project by using coconut shell for water purification.
The very first YICMG Competition held outside of PRC was the Third YICMG Competition in Laos People’s Democratic Republic on 26 to 31 January 2018. The theme for 2018 YICMG was “Development of Tourism and Other Green Industries” and 12 students from the University of Yangon submitted 4 projects to the Committee for YICMG 2018. This time, university students together with local community living along Mekong River went on to field trip to conduct ground survey for socio-cultural behaviors of local people. This kind of field surveys nurtured the decision-making of students in solving problems through cooperation and coordination among international student teams. The Most Valuable Issue Award was honoured to the students from the University of Yangon for “Implementation of an Eco-Friendly Hotel” Project. Consequently, student from Industrial Chemistry specialization at the University of Yangon also received The Best Multi-national Team Award of YICMG 2018.
It was not an easy task for students and organizers of YICMG program. Since April 2017, the instructions, guide lines and themes for Third YICMG were disseminated and Committee for Holding Third YICMG Competition encouraged students to form team with at least three students. It was also supported by respective universities, embassies and academic institutions to explore more issues facing with local community of individual Mekong River country. Finally, 20 teams from 6 countries were selected by International Expert Team for YICMG Competition for more innovative idea.
The mechanism to select the YICMG Project consists of two steps. For the first round, every student group had to submit the project proposal to Committee for YICMG Competition. The Committee finally announced the most relevant and most innovative projects to compete in China. For the second round competition, each student team based on country-specific teams were reorganized as Multi-national Student Team. Through random lottery system, the Multi-national Teams have to find the more credible and sustainable solutions of the research projects which were selected for competition in the first round.
The International Expert Team supported the idea and suggestion to Multi-National Student Teams to explore more innovative thinking and ideas for sustainable development of Lantsang-Mekong Region. After defending the critical questions on experimental solutions raised by International Expert Team, the Best International Team Award and the Best Project for Incubation Award were selected for competing Multi-national Teams.
One of the programs, the YICMG Training Camp for Innovation and Entrepreneurship is a program with the decision of International Expert Team to train the Multinational Student Teams. It has more meaningful decision to conduct exchange program on cultural resources among countries in the region.
The major objective of the Training Camp is to disseminate information and criteria for innovation or innovative instructions and project incubation services. Mentors also encourage students for close consultation and problem solving through relaxation activities such as Ignite Talk, Open Course on Innovation and Entrepreneurs and Mekong Café.
The students from the University of Yangon have participated in YICMG Competitions since 2016. They received Awards from YICMG every year. The university students are trying to find out the most appropriate solution and suggestion for the sustainable regional development and environmental conservation based on field works jointly conducted by university students of Mekong Region countries and on the needs of local community as well.
The students of the University of Yangon are also making efforts enthusiastically not only for their nation but also for regional development of Lantsang-Mekong Region in Asia.
Yin Myo Thu)