Xayabouri Dam and drought are exposing the Mekong riverbed downstream

Satellite images suggest testing operations on the Mekong’s newest mainstream dam is holding water and exposing downstream stretches on the Thai/Lao border.

Part of the Mekong Policy Project
Southeast Asia

The 1285 MW Xayabouri Dam in Laos scheduled for operation in fall 2020 underwent operations tests in mid-June during a time when Mekong River levels were already falling due to drought. The dam operator’s decision is exposing huge portions of the river more than 100km downstream and exacerbating the drought. These comparative satellite images show the dam and downstream locales from June 6 and July 17, 2019. Note how the upstream reservoir of the dam shows no difference across the two dates while the downstream portions do show change (lower level in the July 17 image). If the dam delivered zero impact, the upstream reservoir would show a reduction proportional to the downstream in the July 17 image. The dam operator has categorically denied any downstream impacts delivered by the operations testing.

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