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Gov’t thanks Chinese for keeping dam open

The Jinghong Dam on the Mekong River in China, seen last year. International Rivers
The Jinghong Dam on the Mekong River in China, seen last year. International Rivers

Gov’t thanks Chinese for keeping dam open

Phnom Penh has welcomed a decision by China to continue releasing water into the Mekong from the Jinhong Dam – even though it is likely to do little to alleviate drought conditions.

“The discharge of water into the Mekong River proves again the good cooperation on water resource management between the Mekong countries and China,” the Foreign Affairs and Water Resources ministries said in a joint statement.

Chinese Ambassador Bu Jianguo informed senior minister Prak Sokhon of the decision on April 12 and did not say when the dam would be closed again, according to Foreign Affairs spokesman Chum Sounry.

Sounry said Prime Minister Hun Sen had earlier this month asked China to keep the discharge going until the start of the rainy season, which traditionally begins in May.

However, Bun Hean, a secretary of state at the Ministry of Water Resources and Meteorology, said only 10 to 20 per cent of the increased flow reached Cambodia because it was so far downstream.

Since China began discharging the water on March 15, the level of the Mekong in Cambodia had increased by just 3 millimetres.

According to Hean, 88 communes across the Kingdom have water shortages, which the ministry estimates are affecting tens of thousands of families.

Last month, Mekong River Commission technical adviser Ian Thomas said that China normally discharged water at this time of year anyway.

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