The Mekong River Commission last month said the Mekong water levels during this early flood season from June to July are at historical low, wreaking havoc on hundreds of millions of inhabitants in downstream countries.
Mekong water levels during early flood season from June to July, 2019, are at historical low.
The Mekong River is vital for the livelihoods of more than 100 million people living in Laos, Thailand, Cambodia, and Vietnam.
If the volume of water flowing in the river basin is insufficient, the lower part will suffer salinization and infertility, leading to food shortages.
Record low water level
According to the Mekong River Commission, on July 18, the water level in Thailand’s Chiang Saen, was 2.1 meters, 3m lower than its long-term average – the average water level measured over 57 years – over the same period. In Laos’ Vientiane, the water was 0.7m or 5.5m below its long-term average over the same period.
It was about 1.3m lower than the minimum level. The water level in Cambodia’s Kratie, was 9.3m, about 5.4m below its long-term average. But it was a bit higher than the minimum level ever recorded.
The current water level in Vietnam’s Mekong River delta is much lower than the same period. Locals in An Phu district, An Giang province, said unlike in previous years, when the Mekong River submerged the fields, water is not flowing from upper streams.
53-year-old fisherman Le Van Khang in Phu Nhon hamlet, said,“Without water, people whose lives depend on fishing like me face numerous difficulties because no water, no fish. Since the beginning of the early flood season, I have fished several times in the river but I caught nothing. Our family doesn’t even have fish for daily meals. My sons have to leave home for working in Binh Duong province to make a living.”
Nguyen Van Thanh, another resident of Phu Nhon hamlet, complained about water shortages for cultivation. He said, “Droughts are imminent. At this time of the year, water should have flowed to the rice fields. It takes a toll on our rice production.”
Effective, responsible use of Mekong River
Doctor Khem Sothea, a river flood forecasting specialist at the Mekong River Commission, said the Mekong water’s record low during monsoon season is abnormal due to low rainfall, overexploitation of tributaries, and especially hydroelectric dams built in the upper reach blocking water from flowing into reservoirs.
Doctor Khem Sothea, a river flood forecasting specialist at the Mekong River Commission
The lower-than-normal water level in the Mekong basin is threatening agricultural production, ecological systems, bio-diversity, and waterway transport. Vietnam’s Mekong Delta region is being salinized.
There’s an urgent need for countries sharing the Mekong River to minimize the adverse effects caused by humans and jointly build a law on effective and sustainable use of the river. VOV5