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Worries in Laos and Thailand as upstream dams drain Mekong River — Radio Free Asia

” When there is little water coming down from the north, the lower region will have less water,” states a Lao official who works closely with the Mekong River Commission. (RFA).

” There will be no more fish at all. I do not desire any more dams on the river,” he said.
The lack of fish is also being felt in markets in Laos capital Vientiane.
” This year, we dont have adequate fish to offer; fish are scarce compared to in 2015,” a fish trader there told RFA Lao Service on Jan. 14.
Another fish trader stated he had not acquired any fish for 2 weeks.
A Lao official who works closely with the Mekong River Commission told RFA that the water levels of the Mekong depend upon the amount of water released by China.
” When there is little water boiling down from the north, the lower area will have less water,” he stated. “Sometimes, there is too much water in the north, so a great deal of water is launched. Thats why often, the lower Mekong River region is dry and in some cases flooded.”.
Recent reports by the MRC and by the Mekong Dam Monitor say the primary chauffeur of drought in the Mekong basin is lack of rains during the damp season, said Brian Eyler, head of the Stimson Centers Southeast Asia Program and the Energy, Water, and Sustainability Program.
” The driving element is an absence of rain during the wet season– no other aspects can be so large to account for the gap,” he composed in e-mailed remarks.
” However, we have also figured out that by and large, throughout these last three years of low flow, a lot of dams in the Mekong basin were operated the very same way as they operated in previous years of high or normal circulation,” stated Eyler.
The upstream practice of holding back water in fairly low-flow years takes a fairly bigger quantity of water out of the system, implying that “dam restrictions during a time of drought injured the Mekong much more,” he wrote.
The fears expressed by farmers and fishermen reflect the reality that “the effects of these restrictions are the most noticeable nearby to the dams themselves,” added Eyler.
An Pich Hatda, head of the MRC Secretariat, stated in a press release on Jan. 13 that the drought has actually been impacting farming production and the fishery industry along with putting more pressure on incomes of those who live along and depend on the Mekong River.
” Its likewise been threatening the ecosystem of the river,” he said. “Therefore, aggressive cooperation is very important, not just cooperation from China however from all MRC members to tackle this problem.”.

” When there is little water coming down from the north, the lower region will have less water,” he said. Thats why often, the lower Mekong River area is dry and sometimes flooded.”.

The left image reveals a complete Mekong River in January 2019, while on the right is the Mekong in January 2022. (Planet Labs with RFA analysis).
Laotians and Thais who depend on the Mekong River for lifes requirements– food, water, earnings– fear the mighty waterway might be drying up.
They state environment change might be a factor in recent dry spells in the area, however think the direct reason for their troubles are two dams China and Laos built upstream that siphon off water for other and agricultural uses prior to it reaches them. Professionals say the dams make the impact of periodic dry spells in the Mekong basin worse and rob the river of the “pulse result” that spreads water and nutrients that support fisheries and farming.
On the Lower Mekong, less fish are being captured and some days water levels are so low individuals can walk from one coast to the other. With more dams planned in Laos to produce electrical power for export, farmers and anglers fear the worst may be yet to come.
” The Mekong River is dry since of the dams. The more dams we have, the drier the river will become. No one is attempting to compensate us and alleviate the issue,” stated a Thai villager who lives along the Mekong in Loei province.

The Mekong is among the worlds most biodiverse river basins with more than 1,100 species of fish. As the worlds largest inland fishery, the river is an important food source for the 70 million people in Laos, Thailand, Cambodia and Vietnam who reside in its basin.
The rivers flow over the last three years has been among the most affordable ever taped, with 2020 the most affordable on record, according to analysis of Mekong River Commission information by the Washington-based Stimson Centers Mekong Dam Monitor job.
The commission is an intergovernmental organization that deals with the governments of the four Mekong basin nations to collectively manage the shared water resources and the sustainable development of the Mekong.
” The Mekong River is so dry therefore low that regional citizens can stroll throughout it at some locations like the one in between Sangthong district in the Lao capital Vientiane and Pak Chom district in Thailands Loei province,” a member of the Thai Mekong Peoples Network from Eight Provinces, who declined to be called so regarding speak easily, informed RFA.

” The Mekong River is dry since of the dams. The more dams we have, the drier the river will end up being. No one is trying to compensate us and reduce the problem,” stated a Thai villager who lives along the Mekong in Loei province.

The low water levels are putting more pressure on livelihoods of those who live along and depend upon the Mekong River. (RFA).

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The group represents individuals who live along the Mekong River in 8 Thai provinces, including areas on the border with Laos, and face transboundary ecological impacts from the Xayaburi Dam hydropower task, Laos very first dam on the Lower Mekong River.
” The Mekong River is not the very same– sometimes it is low, and sometimes it is high,” a Lao angler, who survives on the bank of Mekong River in Xayaburi province, said. “I can capture more fish in the Xayaburi Dam reservoir than I can in the area listed below the dam.”.
Completed in 2019, the Xayaburi Dam is the very first of 5 prepared dams on the Mekong mainstream in Laos as the federal government aims to generate revenue by selling the electrical power from its hydropower jobs to its neighbors, particularly Thailand.
Laos has 78 dams in operation and has signed memoranda of understanding for 246 other hydroelectric projects, in spite of unpredictability about Thailands willingness to buy the electrical energy they generate.
Planned Mekong River dams such as Luang Prabang Dam and Sanakham Dam will make the drought even worse, included the fisherman, who declined to give his name.

An agent from the Network of Community Organization Council of Seven Northeastern Provinces, another Thai group that represents individuals who live along the Mekong, stressed the need for sustainable advancement in the Lower Mekong Region in which citizens have real input, in comments to a Mekong-U.S. Partnership seminar on Jan. 10.
The U.S. and 5 lower Mekong nations launched the collaboration in September 2020 as a brand-new multilateral cooperation framework amid growing concerns about Chinas expanding influence in mainland Southeast Asia.
” In the last five years, our Mekong River has had a lot of issues with the water ending up being clear [since of the] absence of sediment and food for aquatic species,” the agent said.
” The water level is down by more than half, [and] the river is flooded during dry season and dry in damp season.”.
” Its not normal,” he stated. “The water turns blue, impacting the environment, natural resources, the environment, and the fish population.”.
Reported by RFAs Lao Service. Translated by Max Avary. Composed in English by Roseanne Gerin.
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