More water now being released into downstream Mekong River

China increased the rate of the release of water, through its dams into the Mekong River, to 1,449 cubic metres/second from 1,250 cubic metres/second at the weekend to ease the hardship of people living downstream in Thailand and Laos.

According to Thailand’s regional harbor office, in the northern province of Chiang Rai, the additional water flow, from the Jinghong dam in China’s Yunnan province, is expected to reach Chiang Rai in a day or two.

Earlier, China reduced the rate of release by half, from 1,000 cm/second to 500 cm/second, reportedly for dam maintenance, but later increased the amount to 1,250 cm/second after complaints from the Thai private sector and civic groups. They complained that the reduced water volume was causing the Mekong River to drop to a critical point, affecting navigation and disrupting the operations of water treatment plants in many northern and northeastern provinces.

The sudden sharp drop in water levels in the river was also blamed on the retention of water in the reservoir behind the Xayaburi dam in Laos, in preparation for a trial run of its seven electricity generators.

The drying of the Mekong River has also led to the mass death of marsh clams in Pak Khat district of Thailand’s northeastern province of Bung Kan.

Mr. Chainarong Sethchua, a lecturer in the humanities and social science faculty of Maha Sarakham University, told Thai PBS that marsh clams, which are a source of protein for people living along the river, were found dead on the river banks and sandbars, which emerged as a result of the drastic lowering of the water level.

He added that most of the dead clams had decomposed and were emitting a foul smell and, although the water level has increased slightly, most clams are already dead.

Mr. Chainarong urged members of the public to join his campaign to save the once mighty Mekong River from being choked to death by all the dams which have been, and are being built in China, Laos and Cambodia.

“Our fight will take a long time, but it does matter if we win or lose. We fight today for the river and for our descendants. We have faith that the world will change and, one day, the Mekong River will run free,” said Mr. Chainarong.



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