The fluctuations have made it “challenging for authorities and communities to prepare for and respond to possible impacts”, says to Dr Winai Wangpimool, Director of the MRC Secretariat’s Technical Support Division.
Based on the 2016 energy demand, the researchers estimated that prolonged droughts reduce hydropower production in the Thai-Laotian grid (refer to image) by about 4,000 GWh/year, increasing carbon dioxide emissions by 2.5 million metric tons, and increasing costs by US$120 million in one year.
“Despite their importance to local communities, freshwater fish are invariably forgotten. Freshwater fish matter to the health of people and the freshwater ecosystems that all people and all life on land depend on. It’s time we remembered that,” said Mr. Seng Teak, Country Director of WWF-Cambodia.
The Food Agriculture Organization of the United Nations (FAO) is developing near-real time deforestation alert systems in the Lower Mekong region, inclusive of Thailand, Vietnam, Lao People’s Democratic Republic, Myanmar, and Cambodia.
The latest data shows that for the past two months, Jinghong station, one of the main hydropower stations on the Lancang River, upper half of Mekong River, has been releasing more water than the river’s average natural flow rate recorded during the Mekong River’s current dry season.
“The problem is that the dam developer doesn’t want to do a new SIA, saying that the SIA has been done. But UNESCO does not accept the first SIA.”
But there’s no mystery about the cause of this crisis: It’s down to us – from building on wetlands and floodplains, to our poorly planned hydropower dams to over-abstraction of water for agriculture, unsustainable fishing, pollution, invasive species, sand mining and climate change.
The Mekong’s normal flow can be restored if large volumes of water are consistently and reliably released from Chinese dam reservoirs. However, China’s water policy shows Beijing is unlikely to change its behavior and the worst for the Mekong is yet to come.
“But it is not about China alone, because there is a need for governance of the river that recognizes its ecological value and its multiple uses for millions of local communities.”
“This discrepancy between outflow estimates may be due to the use of different methods to calculate discharges,” the MRC statement said.