China’s Mekong River Dams Compounded 2019 Drought, US-Funded Study Claims

Sandra Loyd

China compounded a drought that ravaged fishing and farming neighborhoods on the Mekong River in 2015 by limiting the circulation of big quantities of water downstream from 11 of its dams, a U.S. research study company stated in a study launched Monday.

Satellite measurements of “surface wetness” showed that the Chinese dams in the Upper Mekong had “above-average” water levels when in 2015’s drought took location in Thailand and other countries downstream, Alan Basist, president of the research study business Eyes on Earth Inc., informed BenarNews, , an RFA-affiliated online news service

“They didn’t directly cause the drought, but they compounded it,” Basist stated, describing the Chinese dams.

Basist co-wrote the U.S. government-funded study, which utilized satellite information throughout a 28- year duration to come up with an estimation that Chinese dams had actually kept back “a huge volume of water.”

“The satellite observations provide measurements of surface wetness, which can be directly translated into river flow,” Basist stated.

“The satellites showed … basically, 2019 was an extreme event of restriction of flow from the upper basin,” he stated. “It’s being restricted by the 11 dams in China.”

The Mekong, the world’s 12 th-longest river, extends through 6 countries prior to draining pipes into the South China Sea. Its waters circulation from China past Myanmar, Laos, Thailand, Cambodia and Vietnam, impacting more than 60 million people who depend upon the Mekong and its tributaries for water, food and transportation.

Basist highlighted that there was a significant drought taking place in the lower basin, which generally triggered parts of the river to dry up, leaving split riverbeds even throughout a rainy season when fishing ought to have abounded. Reports stated the Lower Mekong’s water level in 2015 was its least expensive throughout the past 50 years.

“The primary cause was from a severe drought in the Lower Mekong. The lack of water from China only amplified the drought,” he stated.

The study did not analyze the circulation of water downstream, consisting of in Laos where 2 brand-new dams were likewise opened late in 2015.

A spokesperson from China’s Ministry Foreign Affairs declined the Eye’s on Earth’s study as “unreasonable,” stating Yunnan province likewise saw major drought in 2015.

“Despite this, China has continued to do its utmost to guarantee reasonable discharge volumes” to countries downstream, the ministry stated in a declaration to Reuters news service.

In early 2020, the Mekong River Commission (MRC), an inter-governmental firm that deals with local federal governments to handle the river’s resources, alerted that water outflows might possibly drop as Beijing stated it was screening equipment at one of its 11 dams on the Upper Mekong.

Throughout a conference with his Southeast Asian equivalents in February, Chinese Foreign Minister Wang Yi stated Chinese dams on the Mekong– which China calls the Lancang– would launch water, and Beijing would think about sharing hydrology info to help its next-door neighbors in the future.

Wang made the remarks in reaction to criticism that widespread damming on the Mekong would transform the economies of the 5 other countries downstream and add to long-lasting inflation and reliance on China.

Critics and NGOs fault China’s dams on the Mekong for adding to the drought that significantly harmed farming and fisheries in its surrounding countries. Wang stated the drought was primarily triggered by an absence of rain and pointed out that China had actually likewise suffered financial losses.

“China has overcome its own difficulty and increased water outflow from the Lancang River to help Mekong countries mitigate the drought,” Wang informed the conference.

Reported by BenarNews, an RFA-affiliated online news service.

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