The Mekong River Commission yesterday warned that severe to extreme drought is expected to hit countries in the lower Mekong basin from now until January, putting crop production at risk and causing water shortages.
An MRC preliminary analysis noted that Cambodia and Thailand will be hit harder than Laos and Vietnam.
It said data shows that the drought is caused by insufficient rainfall during the wet season because of delayed arrival and earlier departure of monsoon rains and the El Nino phenomenon that has created abnormally high temperatures and high evaporation rates.
“During a normal year, the monsoon rain usually starts in late May and ends in October,” the analysis said. “But this year, it began almost two weeks late and departed about three weeks earlier.”
It noted that during the third and fourth weeks of this month, the vast majority of the lower Mekong basin parts are expected to be impacted and the drought condition is forecast to worsen from next month to early January, with most parts of the basin having little to no rain.
“Cambodia’s northeastern part, including Oddar Meanchey, Preah Vihear and Siem Reap provinces and the north and northeastern regions of Thailand would be affected the most while parts of central and northern Laos and Vietnam’s Mekong delta would also be impacted but less severely” the analysis noted.
Lam Hung Son, MRC Secretariat’s head of regional flood and drought management centre, yesterday said that this year’s prolonged dry weather condition can possibly adversely impact agricultural and crop production in the member countries.
“The issue of water shortage for consumption could also come into play as the drought persists” he said.
Chan Youttha, Water Resource and Meteorology Ministry spokesman, yesterday said that the analysis of MRC’s data is a long-term weather forecast, so the ministry has been conducting further research on the case.
“We have not been able to respond immediately, because it’s a long-term weather forecast. Therefore, we have to collect data on how the situation has changed for Cambodia,” he noted.
However, he said that the water situation in Cambodia has not yet been a challenge and the ministry has prepared measures to manage water during the dry season.
According to MRC, the MRC Council, its highest ministerial body, will meet and discuss the drought issue next week during an annual gathering in Phnom Penh.
The council is expected to approve a Drought Management Strategy as part of ongoing efforts to address much needed mitigation measures, information sharing and dissemination mechanisms about drought.