Drop in Mekong River level threatens Vientiane rice fields

Tuesday, February 23, 2010

Tue, 23 Feb 2010

Vientiane - An unusual drop in the water level of the Mekong River has dried up the irrigation systems of over 3,600 hectares of rice fields in the Lao capital, state media reported Tuesday. Seven Vientiane irrigation systems have insufficient water because the Mekong has been falling more rapidly than usual, dropping an average rate of 10 centimetres a day since the beginning of February, the Vientiane Times reported.

The lack of water is threatening some 3,680 hectares of rice fields in Hadxaifong and Pakngum districts of the capital, according to an official at the Vientiane Irrigation Division, who asked not to be named.

"Though these seven stations are still operational, they are unable to run a full capacity due to the insufficient inflow of water," the official said. If the Mekong level drops another 30-50 centimetres some 9,000 hectares of rice land will be affected, the official warned.

The irrigation division asked the government for 632 million kip (about 748,000 dollars) to dig channels through the exposed riverbed to allow water to flow to the pumping stations.

In neighbouring Thailand, non-governmental organizations have urged the government to negotiate with Beijing to release more water from Chinese dams on the upper Mekong River.

"It's time for the Thai government to look into the impact of Chinese dams on downstream communities," said The Save the Mekong Coalition, a Thailand-based NGO, in a statement issued on Monday.

The Chinese government has built four mega-dams on the upper Mekong to produce electricity for Yunnan province.

The Mekong River flows through southern China, Laos, Myanmar, Thailand, Cambodia and Vietnam, providing irrigation and fishing grounds for millions of people.


Post a Comment