According to Al Jazeera’s recent article the “Mekong River plunged to its lowest level in 20 years.”
The Mekong river originates in China and flows south through the Tibetan Plateau, and along the border of Burma, Laos, Thailand, through Cambodia and out its delta in Vietnam.
Al Jazeera interviewed Andrew Walker, a researcher at Australian National University, who suggests that the dams are for hydropower, and aren’t for anything other than energy generation. Walker elaborated saying,
“There might be some minor fluctuations given the balance between dam filling and release, in comparison to the effect of the very low rainfall throughout the region over the past year….Water shortages in the dry season in Southeast Asia are not unusual at all.”
Experts within the basin have a different attitude. Witoon Permpongsarcheren of the Mekong Energy and Ecology Network said:
“..upward of the Golden Triangle there are no main tributaries from Laos…So whatever is happening with the flow at the Golden Triangle is almost 100 per cent from China.”
This seems to be a classic case of the upstream riparian holding all the cards. That is to say, China has the economic clout, military strength, and upstream hydrology.
The Mekong River Commission (MRC), formed in 1995 (after many decades of nascence) is comprised of Cambodia, Lao PDR, Thailand and Viet Nam. The absence of China in the MRC makes comprehensive water management plans impossible.
This month, WaterSecurity will explore the emergence of the MRC, other state and non-state actors in the Basin, as well as the future of this basin in terms physical drivers such as climate change and social drivers such as China’s longterm energy demand.