The Mekong River Commission (MRC) has warned that severe to extreme droughts are forecast to last until January for countries in the lower Mekong basin.
Cambodia, Laos, Vietnam and Thailand are expected to be the countries worst-hit by the looming drought, the MRC said.
The drought conditions, it said, are forecast to worsen between December and early January – with Oddar Meanchey, Preah Vihear, and Siem Reap provinces bearing the brunt of the water shortages in the Kingdom.
Forecasts predict that the drought will gradually ease beginning in the second week of January, the MRC said.
It said that insufficient rain during the wet season due to the delayed arrival and early departure of the monsoon season, coupled with last year’s El Nino events resulted in unseasonably high temperatures.
The MRC said the drought is caused by insufficient rainfall during the wet season and the delayed arrival and early departure of the monsoon rain and El Nino, which created an abnormally high temperature and evapotranspiration (water vapour released by plants).
Cambodia’s monsoon rains usually begin in late May and end in October, but this year’s monsoons were delayed by two weeks and ended about three weeks earlier, the MRC said.
“This year’s prolonged dry weather condition can adversely impact agricultural and crop production. The issue of water shortage for consumption could also come into play as the drought persists,” said the MRC Secretariat’s Regional Flood and Drought Management Centre head Lam Hung Son.
Ministry of Water Resource and Meteorology spokesman Chan Yutha said on Wednesday that effects of the drought may be lessened since it’s expected to occur during the Kingdom’s dry season and cooler temperatures.
The cooler temperatures, he said, will last from mid-December until the third or fourth week of January and prevent evapotranspiration from occurring.
“The Mekong River’s water level is the lowest point in recent memory. Some sources said it has been up to 100 years since we faced a situation like this. I can say that I have never observed the Mekong’s water level to be so low during the dry season,” Yutha said.
Yutha echoed the MRC’s report from earlier this year which said the Mekong River’s water levels had drastically gone down due to the El Nino phenomenon, despite parts of the Kingdom reporting heavy rains, flooding and droughts concurrently.
Some districts reported less than 700mm of precipitation, Yutha said, adding that “Cambodia has never faced such a situation before”.
“Regions of the Kingdom that can grow rice crops during the dry season will only have one crop this year, while areas that produce two or three harvests will only be able to produce one,” he warned.