The greater data sharing, transparency and cooperation between Cambodia, Laos, Thailand and Vietnam and dialogue partners will improve management of the Mekong River, the Mekong River Commission said.
The MRC said, in its 13-page long commentary note on a 2020 study exploring the effect of Chinese dams on the natural flows of the Mekong River, that more scientific evidence was necessary to conclude the 2019 drought was, in large part, caused by water storage in Upper Mekong dams.
It said on preliminary analysis, using rainfall data from 2008 to 2019 and observed water flows, the 2019 drought was due largely to very low rainfall during the wet season with a delayed arrival and earlier departure of monsoon rains, and an El Nino phenomenon created an abnormally higher temperature and higher evapotranspiration.
“In 2019, the monsoon rains began almost two weeks late and stopped about three weeks earlier than usual,” it added. “The basin lost about five weeks of rain and only received about 75 percent of rainfall as compared to previous years,” it said.
It said the MRC has maintained a continuous record of water flows in the Mekong mainstream, and compared it to longer term records, documented in its Procedures for the Maintenance of Flows on the Mainstream.
The MRC has set in motion a raft of initiatives to reinvigorate its data, information, modelling, forecasting and communication systems.
By upgrading its information-sharing capabilities, and tailoring these to the information needs of the Member Countries, the MRC is preparing the ground for a more comprehensive upgrade of its Decision Support Framework that can monitor the condition of the river and identify the causes of change, it said.
By providing accurate, up-to-date information, decision makers and the public will have the means to address emerging issues, such as low flows and reduced rainfall, it said.
“Improved sharing of data and information will enhance Cambodia, Lao PDR, Thailand and Vietnam’s ability to manage the shared water resources for mutual benefits and to address misunderstandings,” the MRC said.
An Pich Hatda, MRC Secretariat’s Chief Executive Officer, said the need for all the countries along the length of the Mekong to strike a balance between the benefits of development, social justice and environmental sustainability is paramount.
“A transparent data sharing arrangement on how water and related infrastructures are operated will help everyone manage risks and avoid misperception,” Mr Hatda said. “To achieve this, cooperation from all the riparian countries and their timely and transparent sharing of data and information on water use and infrastructure is pivotal.” he added
So Sophort, secretary general of Cambodia National Mekong Committee, said the provision of data and information on water management and infrastructure is crucial for river management, as well as effective management planning.
He said that Cambodia and other member states have also agreed on the procedure for sharing and exchanging data and information for the planning and management of the Mekong River Basin.
“The data and information is needed based on the current situation, so this work has to be done continuously and requires the cooperation of all the member countries plus two countries of dialogue partners, including China and Myanmar to ensure that the shared basin is managed altogether effectively and sustainably for the benefit of the present and the future,” Mr Sophort said.