China reveals Mekong data in boost for drought response

Bangkok Post (via AFP) 25 March 2010

China has agreed to provide information on Mekong water levels in a major boost for efforts to respond to an alarming decline in the river's flow, authorities said Thursday.

People capture the view while cruising down the Mekong River (or Lancang River in China) to Guanlei, 06 July 2005, in Xishuangbanna Dai Autonomous Prefecture which borders Burma and Laos in China's southwest Yunnan province. China has agreed to provide information on Mekong water levels in a major boost for efforts to respond to an alarming decline in the river's flow, according to authorities.

Activists in Thailand have said that Chinese dams are responsible for record-low levels on the critical waterway, but poor rainfall in the region has also been identified as a factor.

The Mekong River Commission (MRC) said that China would share data from its upstream monitoring stations on the Mekong -- on which more than 60 million people depend for drinking water, transport, irrigation and fishing.

"This is very positive news, as it shows that China is willing to engage with lower basin countries," MRC secretariat chief Jeremy Bird said in a statement.

"It will clear ambiguity on this issue and further build the trust necessary to jointly address other critical issues facing the basin, such as food security and climate change," he added.

The move comes ahead of a four-nation summit hosted by Thailand next month to discuss management of the Mekong which is suffering from the lowest water levels for 20 years.

The leaders of Cambodia, Laos, Thailand and Vietnam will meet in the resort town of Hua Hin south of Bangkok.