The combination of this year's dry season with the effects of two dams in Yunnan has lowered parts of the Mekong river to water levels under one meter, according to a Bangkok Post report.
The low water levels have slowed cargo movement along the Mekong - known in Yunnan as the Lancang River - to a snail's pace. Cargo boats which once took three days to travel between the ports in southern Yunnan's Jinghong and Chiang Saen in northern Thailand's Chiang Rai province are now taking one month.
The effects of this year's dry season on the Mekong are compounded by the two recently completed dams at Manwan and Dachaoshan along the Lancang River in Yunnan. There are plans for six more hydroelectric dams to be built on the river, the next one scheduled for completion in 2010.
Although water levels on the Mekong are expected to rise again after this month, it is uncertain if an annual drying of the Mekong can be avoided. Aside from becoming nearly impassable for boats, lower fish counts are being recorded on the river, which sustains the livelihood of millions of farmers and villagers in Myanmar, Laos, Thailand, Vietnam and Cambodia.