China’s dams killing Mekong


Like most rivers in this country which are fast drying up under the scorching summer sun, the Mekong is no exception. This otherwise mighty river has shrunk substantially in size and its once forceful flow is now down to a trickle in many lower stretches of the river, to the extent that navigation has become impossible. Although the drying up of the Mekong River in the dry season has become a normal phenomenon, the situation this year appears to be much worse than that in previous years. The impact has already been felt by people depending on the river for water, transport and food. The Irrigation Department of late has reported that the river in Loei, Nong Khai and Nakhon Phanom provinces has already reached critical levels even though the peak of the dry season is still a month away. Tour boat operators in Chiang Rai’s Chiang Saen district have suspended their services because the water level is too shallow for navigation. Fishermen have reported fewer catches prompting many of them to turn to other manual jobs to make a living. Less rainfall as a result of climatic changes may be partly to blame. But non-governmental organisations which have been closely monitoring ecological changes in the Mekong River have been quick to point accusatory fingers at China. They blame China for storing up water, especially at the newly-completed Xiaowan hydro-electric dam, to generate electricity. That is just part of the sad story. The damming of the Mekong’s tributaries in Laos and northeastern Thailand, such as the Pak Moon dam, also contribute to less water flowing into the Mekong.