Stimson in the News

Brian Eyler cited in article on the dam-driven droughts causing record-breaking lows in the Mekong river’s water levels

in Program

Southeast Asia’s Mekong River has dropped to its lowest level in more than 100 years, and experts warn monsoon rains that have arrived two months late may not be enough to undo the damage.

Food supplies for tens of millions of people are endangered. Fishermen who expect to haul in large fish this time of year are seeing only tiny ones. Farther downstream, scientists aren’t even seeing small fish or fish larvae. Rice farmers have been unable to plant their crops in the parched ground. Others who did plant have watched the slender green shoots die as saltwater backs up into the delta.

Severe drought is part of the problem. Monsoon season typically starts in May, but rainfall for the past two months has been more than 40 percent below normal, Reuters reported.

Hydroelectric dams upriver in China and Laos are making the situation worse, Asian government officials and scientists say.

The Mekong River begins in China, where it is called the Lancang, and it flows through Myanmar, Thailand, Laos, Cambodia and Vietnam before reaching the South China Sea.

China operates 11 dams along the Mekong, From July 5 to 19, it cut by half the amount of water it would normally release from the Jinghong Dam in Yunnan province, the Nikkei Asian Review reported. Chinese water officials said it was for grid maintenance. China has also promised to release more water from the dam.

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