The Mekong River Commission (MRC) said Friday it was urging the six Mekong countries to address low water flows as the basin endures record lows for the second year in a row.
“The current low flows could have severe impacts on Cambodia due to a loss of fisheries and irrigation potential,” the statement warned.
The statement added that Vietnam might experience reduced productivity in the Mekong Delta and that productivity in Laos and Thailand might also be affected.
“We call on the six Mekong countries to increase data and information sharing on their dam and water infrastructure operations in a transparent and speedy manner with the MRC,” said An Pich Hatda, chief executive at the MRC Secretariat in Vientiane.
“It is time to walk the talk and to act in the common interest of the entire Mekong River Basin and the affected communities,” he said.
The statement said an MRC report released Friday on hydrological conditions from January to July identified “multiple possible causes” of the low flows and drought.
“Among these are abnormal low rainfall affected by the El Nino weather phenomenon, prolonged low flow conditions carried over from 2019, and lower water flow contributions from the Mekong tributaries,” the statement said.
“The low flows have caused Cambodia’s Tonle Sap Lake to experience ‘extremely dry conditions’, with reverse flows at their lowest on record since 1997,” it said.
The statement said operations of mainstream dams in the Upper Mekong Basin (China and Myanmar) and tributary dams in the Lower Mekong Basin (Cambodia, Laos, Thailand and Vietnam) “may have affected the present low flow conditions.
“However, the MRC Secretariat has been unable to obtain official data and information to verify the potential impacts of storage operations in the upper basin.”
According to the report, the statement said, “there could be an ecological imbalance due to significant changes of timing, duration and extent of inundations in the Tonle Sap Lake and its surrounding floodplains.
“This could in turn lead to reduced reproduction through a loss of nursery areas, affecting the growth of fish and other aquatic animals and plants.
“A reduction in fish catch is predicted, threatening food security for the most vulnerable communities in the region.”
The report said Cambodia, Laos, Thailand and Vietnam should warn water users and operators about the situation “to ensure water use is managed carefully” if water levels in the current flood season do not significantly improve.
“The countries should seek alternative water sources to ensure the availability of water supplies.”
The four MRC member countries should also request hydropower and irrigation operators to “adjust their near-term operations and monitor potential bank erosion.
“If the low flows persist … the four countries should consider requesting China to discharge a ‘water supplement’, as they did in 2016, to relieve the situation.”