Water levels in the Mekong River that traverses Cambodia, Thailand, and Lao PDR are expected to drop due to outflows from China’s Jinghong hydropower station, which would be decreased by more than 50 per cent for dam equipment testing from January 1-4, the Mekong River Commission (MRC) said.
“In Cambodia, the water levels along the Mekong River in Stung Treng, Kratie, Kompong Cham, Phnom Penh, Koh Khel and Neak Luong will drop from 0.02-0.25m from January 15-18,” the MRC said on Tuesday.
Navigation along the Mekong River, especially for those near the Jinghong station, may be affected during this period, said Sothea Khem, the MRC Secretariat’s River Forecasting Specialist.
“Some local livelihood activities such as river weed harvesting may also be disrupted. The tests come at a time when the Mekong countries are experiencing severe drought,” he said.
A China Ministry of Water Resources’ notification said the power station equipment testing would cause water outflow from the dam to drop from 1,200-1,400 cubic metres per second to between 800-1,000 cubic metres per second from January 1-3.
The notification said: “The amount of water flow will be further reduced to its lowest point of 504-800 cubic metres per second on January 4 before it is restored to its original volumes.”
Ministry of Water Resource and Meteorology spokesman Chan Yutha and Cambodia National Mekong Committee permanent vice-chairman Te Navuth could not be reached for comment on Wednesday.
The MRC announced in November last year that drought had caused the Mekong water levels to drop to its lowest point over the past 60 years.
Most of the areas along the Mekong River had experienced unusual low water flows since June. However, it was expected that the drought situation would improve gradually from the second week of January as the weather would then become a little wet.
In December last year, the MRC Secretariat and China’s Lancang-Mekong Water Resources Cooperation Centre (LMC Water Centre) signed the first Memorandum of Understanding (MoU) to better the management of the Mekong River.
Both sides agreed to undertake a joint study on last year’s drought and the Mekong River Basin’s low water flow conditions. The study will cover both the Lower Mekong River and Upper Mekong River basin in China, where it is known as Lancang.
The joint research, which will begin this January and end in September, aims to identify the causes and effects of drought and low water flow conditions last year.