China Starts this Month to Share Information with Countries along the Mekong River

A tourist ship travels along the Mekong river at sunset in Phnom Penh on April 22, 2020. (Photo: AFP)

This comes at the request of the countries along the river concerned about its water flow

PHNOM PENH--China will now be sharing hydrological information and year-round data about the upper Mekong River with the countries located downstream.

According to information posted on Nov. 6 on the Chinese Embassy’s Facebook page in Cambodia, Prime Minister Li Keqiang said that China will provide countries along the Mekong with information and year-round data about the Lanchang River—as the portion of the Mekong River in China is named.

Starting this month, the Ministry of Water Resources of China will share year-round information on the international hydrological stations Yunjinghong and Man'an, on the Lancang River with Cambodia, Lao PDR, Thailand and Vietnam and the Mekong River Commission.

This announcement comes amid concerns that China's dams could cause accidents and drought in lower Mekong countries.

In April 2020, a study into the damming of the Mekong River was published by US government-funded research consultancy Eyes on Earth. This report highlighted ways through which the Chinese government—utilizing its geographical positioning along the river and its many dams—had withheld water from Lower Mekong countries, leading to severe droughts with dire social impacts.

On Aug. 7, 2020, the Mekong River Commission released a new situation report urging Mekong nations to address the second consecutive year of low water flows in the Lower Mekong Basin in Cambodia, Lao PDR, Thailand and Vietnam. “The low flows have caused Cambodia’s Tonle Sap Lake to experience ‘extremely dry conditions,’ with reverse flows at their lowest on record since 1997,” the report said.

The following month, China and the Mekong River countries reached an agreement on a memorandum of understanding to discuss China-proposed practical measures of sharing the Lancang River's hydrological data for the whole year with the Mekong countries

Then on Oct. 22, 2020, China agreed to provide the Mekong River Commission with year-round hydrological data in order to help Mekong River countries monitor the river and forecast floods and droughts. The agreement was signed by China’s Ministry of Water Resources and the MRC during a virtual MRC Dialogue Partners Meeting—the annual meeting held by the MRC and its upstream Dialogue Partners China and Myanmar.

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