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NGOs question China's dam release

One week ago, China doubled the quantity of water released from the Jinghong Dam along the Mekong River in Yunnan province. This came two days following Vietnamese officials meeting in Beijing to request the increase due to severe drought conditions and low flows in the Mekong Delta. But at a press conference in Bangkok yesterday, representatives of Thai civil society and communities denounced the action as destructive and insincere. “No one doubts that people in the Vietnamese Delta may be suffering from salt water intrusion due to low Mekong flows this dry season,” said Montree Chantawong from Towards Ecological Recovery and Regional Alliance (TERRA), “But these additional dam releases can’t really help them, yet are hurting many of us.”

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China's Mekong dam release 'nothing special'

Local activists have accused China of using the Mekong River's water resources to increase its political power in the region. The accusation came Tuesday as Prime Minister Prayut Chan-o-cha left Thailand for China for the opening day of the first Mekong-Lancang Cooperation meeting being held in Sanya, Hainan province, until tomorrow. Thailand, Cambodia, Laos, Myanmar, Vietnam and China will discuss cooperation under the theme "Shared River, Shared Future". Earlier, China announced on March 10 it had released water from Jinghong dam in Yunnan, with further releases planned until April 10, to help ease the drought in Thailand and other countries in the sub-region.

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China agrees to share data on its dams

China has agreed to share information on the management of dams in the Mekong River, known as Lancang in China, with other countries connected to the river, says Ministry of Natural Resources and Environment spokesman Suphot Tovichakchaikul. The move aims to reduce the impact of these dams on millions of people who reside around the lower part of the Mekong River, he added.

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Opinion

China's alarming 'water diplomacy' on the Mekong

At first glance, it looks beneficent. As countries along the Lower Mekong river that snakes through mainland Southeast Asia struggled in the grip of a severe drought, China announced it would release water from its upstream Jinghong dam over nearly a month from March 15. The announcement was partly intended as a goodwill gesture one week ahead of the inaugural Lancang-Mekong Cooperation summit of leaders of the six Mekong region countries. But while the water release will spell some immediate relief for the drought-stricken region, it portends future geopolitical tensions between China and its southern Mekong neighbors. Having unilaterally accumulated political power by exploiting geography and manipulating natural waterways through the construction of a slew of upriver dams, China appears intent to set the regional water management rules as it deems fit. The Mekong, which the Chinese refer to as Lancang, is Asia's seventh-longest river and provides livelihoods and habitats for riverfront communities and natural wildlife throughout its meandering flow from China and Myanmar to Laos and Thailand, down to Cambodia and Vietnam before it reaches the sea. China's damming of the upper Mekong has long been considered a geopolitical risk for the lower riparian states and a source of potential conflict for the entire Greater Mekong Subregion -- encompassing Cambodia, China, Laos, Myanmar, Thailand and Vietnam. That risk has manifested itself in an inchoate fashion through the annual dry seasons, when about 60 million people in fishing villages and communities along the Mekong are severely affected. But any protest has been silenced by geopolitical realities.

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China releasing water to drought-stricken Mekong River countries

China will discharge water from a dam to the lower reaches of the Mekong River to alleviate drought in Laos, Myanmar, Thailand, Cambodia and Vietnam, the Foreign Ministry said Tuesday. "We will release emergency water supply from Jinghong Hydropower Station from May 15 till April 10," the ministry's spokesperson Lu Kang said at a regular news briefing. Vietnam has asked China to discharge more water from the hydropower station in southwest China's Yunnan Province to help overcome drought on the Mekong Delta. Mekong River originates in China and runs through Myanmar, Laos, Thailand, Cambodia and Vietnam. It is known as Lancang in the Chinese stretch. China and the five countries along the Mekong are friendly neighbors and assistance like this is natural, Lu said.

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New president must heed public on Myitsone Dam: Kachin party

The new president must listen to the voice of the people, who do not agree to the resumption of the Myitsone Dam project, said Kachin State Democracy Party chairman Dr Manam Tu Ja on March 7. His spoke in response to news that China is seeking to find ways to resume the project. He said the resumption of Myitsone project must depend on the desires of the people.

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More Families Take Deals to Vacate Dam Site

Another 73 families in Stung Treng province have accepted the government’s offer of new land in exchange for the farms they will lose to the Lower Sesan II hydropower dam currently under construction, the second group to take the deal. Seventy families accepted the land swap in May to make way for the 400-megawatt dam being built in a joint venture between the Royal Group and China’s Hydrolancang International Energy across the Sesan and Srepok rivers, both tributaries of the Mekong.

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Chinese firms seek part in Dawei SEZ

ITALIAN-THAI Development (ITD) is forming a consortium with Chinese companies to pour investment into new infrastructure projects in Dawei Special Economic Zone (DSEZ), as land lease in the initial phase kicks off. According to Somjetn Tinnapong, managing director of Myanmar Industrial Estate (MIE) - an ITD subsidiary responsible for the development of the 27-square kilometre initial phase - the consortium will consist of private and state-owned Chinese companies. Their focus will be on the 132-kilometre, four-lane road, which will require an investment of Bt13.5 billion and three ports that will cost US$400 million (Bt14 billion).

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Laos starts off as Asean chair with ministers' retreat

Laos kicks off its Asean chairmanship Friday with an agenda-setting foreign ministers' retreat in Vientiane, its capital on the east bank of the Mekong River. Analysts say this year could be a coming of age for the "lower-middle income economy", where poverty continues to be widespread, but which is one of the fastest-growing economies in the region. Laos last chaired Asean in 2004. Its economy grew by an average of 7 per cent annually in recent years, mostly on the back of its natural resources, a construction boom in Vientiane and rising tourism.

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