China is demonstrating that it has real power to control and manage the Mekong River, as Beijing launches a diplomatic campaign to engage with affected countries downstream. This situation has become clear after China’s contacts with the other five countries along the river – Myanmar, Laos, Thailand, Cambodia and Vietnam. Physically, about half the nearly […]
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.
Drought in Southeast Asia is raising concerns in the Cambodian and Vietnamese countryside where salinity levels are rising in the Mekong River and people are skeptical about fresh promises from Laos that it will respect the rights of downstream countries in dam construction.
The reassurances from Vientiane were delivered by Bounhang Vorachith, who was recently named secretary-general of the Laos Communist Party, sparking hopes he might show a more conciliatory approach to negotiations with countries who share use of the Mekong River.
“Laos will make an effort to ensure that there will be no impact,” Bounhang recently told the Cambodia government in regards to Vientaine’s plans to build 11 dams along the Mekong River and their impact on neighboring countries.
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.
THE southern tip of Mekong Delta in Vietnam in the country’s prime fertile rice-growing region has been hit by the worst drought the country has seen in recent years.
Accompanied by a saline intrusion, the drought is reported to have affected over a million people who face water shortages in the region.
This has spurred China to dispense twice the amount of water from a hydropower station to aid the situation.
Officials blamed the drought on the El Nino weather phenomenon and excessive construction of hydropower dams on the upper stream of the river, the Associated Press reported.
Yesterday, director of the department at the Ministry of Agriculture and Rural Development Ma Quang Trung was quoted as saying the level of inland saline intrusion was unprecedented, resulting in damage to some 180,000 hectares (444,780 acres) of paddy fields.
Mekong Delta Region (MDR) is the largest rice field of Vietnam now facing the serious drought and water shortage. There are 7 provinces in Mekong Delta region is damaged by salinization. The cause of this situation is the depletion of water supplies by the Mekong River. In order to dealing with this situation, in Hanoi 3 March, 2016, Vietnam Deputy Prime Minister has a working session with the Ministry of Natural Resources and Environment (MONRE), the Mekong River Commission of Vietnam on research impact of hydropower projects on the Mekong mainstream.
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.
Center for Environment and Community Research (CECR) conducted policy research to investigate the nature, extent, constraints and outcomes of women’s participation in two development project sites in Vietnam. These project sites were the Trung Son Hydropower Project funded by the World Bank and the Phu Hoa Landfill Project supported by the Asian Development Bank. Both projects have undergone EIA processes.
Aqicn.org, the website which provides real-time figures about the air pollution levels in cities all over the world, showed that the PM2.5 Index (the fine dust particles less than 2.5 micrometers in diameter) in the air in Hanoi in the last two days reached 388 microgram per cubic meter at maximum and 114 microgram per cubic meter at minimum.
Vietnam’s PM2.5 national standard is 50 microgram per cubic meter. Meanwhile, the level recommended by WHO is 25 micrograms.
This means that the dust concentration in the air in Hanoi in the last days was higher than the allowed level by 2-8 times.
Some 196 square kilometers along Myanmar’s west coast is slated for transformation into a deep sea port and industrial estate unrivaled anywhere else in the region.
Several sea dyke sections in the Cuu Long (Mekong) Delta provinces of Bac Lieu and Soc Trang have collapsed because of high tides and strong waves.
In Bac Lieu Province, water broke through several sections of Ganh Hao Sea Dyke in Dong Hai District early last month, causing sea water to flow into residential areas.
Nguyen Van Be, who has lived near the dyke for 40 years, said he had never seen such strong waves.
Mainstream hydropower projects on the Mekong River caused a loss of VND5,200 billion (USVND5,194,153 million) in seafood and agriculture output to the Mekong Delta, said former Deputy Chairman of National Committee of Science and Technology, Nguyen Ngoc Tran.
The announcement came at a conference on the impact of mainstream hydropower projects on the Mekong River held by Can Tho University’s Research Institute for Climate Change yesterday.
The construction of eleven mainstream hydropower dams caused landslides, ecological imbalance as well adversely impacting local farmers and fishermen in the lower Mekong River region, said Tran.