China's Ministry of Water Resources signed an agreement with the Mekong River Commission (MRC) on October 22 which stated China would share more hydrological data with Mekong countries to ensure they can prepare for potential floods and droughts.
In an MRC press release, the commission’s secretariat CEO An Pich Hatda said infrastructure operations in the basin and tributaries were contributing to river flow changes and fluctuations which can impact communities on the river. More operational data sharing would be vital to better managing the river.
“The increased regulation of the basin and the opportunities and challenges it brings calls for greater data and information sharing, improved water release notifications, coordination of operations, and enhanced early warning systems,” Pich Hatda said.
The MRC said China has shared its water level and rainfall data from June to October during the rainy season for the last 18 years. The information the country shared was recorded at two hydrological stations located on the Upper Mekong at Yunjinghong and on a tributary at Manan, both in China’s Yunnan province.
Under the new agreement, China will extend its current data-sharing schedule to provide year-round data from the two stations. The data will be shared twice daily and include rainfall and river level data, the MRC said.
“China has also agreed to share urgent information on any unusual rise or fall in water levels and discharges, as well as other relevant information on factors that might lead to sudden flooding in the lower reaches of the basin,” the press release said.
The MRC said it had worked with China since 1996 on a number of collaborative initiatives, including annual meetings, data and information sharing, joint symposiums and technical exchanges on water resource development, environmental protection and hydropower development.
Mak Bunthoeun, a coordinator of River Coalition Cambodia at the NGO Forum on Cambodia, said the sharing of this data was one of the goals that the Mekong countries had been trying to achieve.
He said the Mekong countries tried to make it compulsory for China to share the information, rather than sharing it upon request.
“This is good news because we need transparent information about the water flow from upstream. This can avoid suspicion on China. Recently, a US-based organisation said China hid information and stored water upstream.
“They did not let the water flow, which meant countries downstream lacked water. This cooperation will clear this suspicion,” he said.