Earlier this week China's neighbors downstream on the Mekong River blamed low rainfall – not China – for the unusually low water levels affecting Southeast Asia's most important river, ignoring claims by environmental activists that dams in Yunnan are damaging the river.
The first Mekong River Commission (MRC) Summit was held in the Thai resort town of Hua Hin April 2-5, bringing together top leaders from Thailand, Laos, Vietnam and Cambodia to discuss management of the Mekong, which supports the livelihoods of 65 million people in six countries.
Leading up to the summit, activists accused China of adversely affecting its downstream neighbors with dams it has built on the Mekong as it flows through Yunnan, where it is known as the Lancang River. There are currently three operational dams on the Lancang, with at least another five in the planning, construction, or filling stages.
The MRC's support for China was a diplomatic victory for Beijing, but issues still remain.
China was praised for providing information about its dams at Jinghong and Manwan, but it has yet to provide historical hydrological data or information about the operational hydropower station at Dachaoshan or a fourth station upstream at Xiaowan that is currently filling its reservoir.
Historical data would allow for more complete analysis of the effects of dams on water flow. Information about how much water is being stored at Xiaowan would allow the MRC to estimate how much water has been withheld from the Mekong during the drought.
Chinese representatives at the summit said the Lancang only contributes 13.5 percent of the Mekong's water volume and that the three operational dams have helped alleviate the water crisis by storing up water during the rainy season and slowly releasing it at the end of 2009 and beginning of 2010.
The MRC has been reluctant to press China about the environmental effects of its dams, which include disruption to migratory fish populations and reduced sediment levels. This may be partly because China is not the only country with dam plans.
Laos is planning to build 23 dams on the river and its tributaries, plus Vietnam and Cambodia are also planning on building their own dams.
In May 2009, a United Nations report said China's dams on the Lancang "may pose the greatest single threat" to the Mekong.© Copyright 2005-2021 GoKunming.com all rights reserved. This material may not be republished, rewritten or redistributed without permission.