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Sunday, November 27, 2022

Living on the Edge of the Rising Sea- Mekong River

Water levels in the Mekong River are expected to continue rising until April 29, after the Jinghong Dam in China’s Yunnan province increased the rate at which it releases water. Thai officials have meanwhile followed up on progress at the Sanakham hydro power plant project, located on the Mekong. Upon completion, the plant will produce 684 megawatts of electricity for nearby provinces in Thailand and Laos.


The first meeting of the Thai National Mekong Committee (TNMC) in 2022 was held on Friday (22 Apr), with discussions centering on river hydropower projects. The meeting was chaired by Deputy Prime Minister Gen Prawit Wongsuwon, who said the TNMC discussed how to proceed under the Procedures for Notification, Prior Consultation, and Agreement (PNPCA) process. PNPCA is a process for stakeholders to discuss and review water-use projects for the Mekong River. Gen Prawit indicated that the committee also hopes to maximize Thailand’s gains from the Sanakham hydropower project.


The TNMC meeting endorsed the pursuit of adequate information about the transboundary impact from Laos or the Mekong River Commission Secretariat. The committee also sought information on how downstream communities and border demarcations would be affected, with the information obtained to be used in the public participation process.
Additionally, the meeting discussed a proposed start to the PNPCA process by Laos for the Phou Ngoy Dam Hydropower project. The Office of the National Water Resources was assigned to review the details, especially on matters relating to the potential impact on Thailand.


The National Water Command has meanwhile issued a warning about rising water levels in the Mekong River caused by rainfall and the increased rate of water released from the Jinghong Dam. Residents in eight provinces along the Mekong River are urged to closely follow up on the water situation from April 22-29. Ky Quang Vinh, a climate change specialist of Can Tho City’s Department of Natural Resources and Environment (DONRE) and a researcher at Can Tho University, is among academics who share insights regularly with the MRC. He points out that the region is becoming much more vulnerable than before. There are now more storms and stronger typhoons and increasing erosion on the sea side.


The area is already exposed to other threats, such as rapidly growing development and urbanisation, which will likely change river flow routines, he said.


Water fluctuation changes combined with salt water intrusion will negatively affect rice farming and fishing activities, said Mr. Vinh.
“The majority of people in the Mekong Delta are rice farmers. If we don’t have solutions to actively catch up with the (growing) impact, productivity will be reduced and poverty increased,” said Mr. Vinh, adding that this will trigger increased migration from affected areas to cities.


Methods that local people are applying to deal with rising sea level and unusual floods are very basic, he said. People in this area, for example, lift their houses off the ground by attaching poles to the foundations.
“In the past there was fresh water flooding and this was a food resource for the people. But now there’s saltwater flooding, and with this things will become very different and very negative,” he said.

Managni Sarmah
Author: Managni Sarmah

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