River level surges after sudden china dam
PEOPLE who live near the Mekong won’t be able to enjoy Songkran in the middle of the river this year, because of the amount of water released from a Chinese dam.
The depth of this major river will not go down enough for higher parts of the riverbed to emerge, as usually happens at this time of the year.
Tourists usually look forward to going to these spots to enjoy recreational activities, with local operators offering to serve food and renting swimming floats, jet skis and other gear for their pleasure.
So when China announced earlier this month that it would release 2,000 cubic metres of water per second from the Jinghong-based dam into the Mekong from March 15 up to April 10, Thais living along the river were not very happy.
Many officials, however, believe the water release will help drought-hit Thailand.
But locals said yesterday that the discharge went against the rules of nature.
“Such water discharges have hampered the ecological system. That’s why fish populations in the river have been clearly shrinking,” said Aomboon Thipsuna, a member of the council of community organisations based in the seven riparian provinces.
She believes China’s decision was not aimed at helping Thais struggling with the drought, but at facilitating commercial navigation in the waterway that flows through Myanmar, Laos, Thailand, Cambodia and Vietnam.
It is a major route for transporting cargo between these countries.
“The water from Chinese dams has pushed up the Mekong River even in the dry season,” Aomboon said.
“The water also came without pro-|per prior notice – too suddenly for |local people, who find it hard to adjust,” she said.
Fishermen and operators of tourism-related services along the Mekong in the dry season had suffered from the Chinese dams’ discharges, she said.
Winai Rompho from Ubon Ratchathani’s Pho Sai district said he used to earn Bt100,000 a year from fishing in the Mekong.
“But since China has operated its dams, I make less than Bt30,000 a year,” he said.
In Nakhon Pranom, Weerawat Khamdee said he was worried about the surge from the Chinese dam because he raised fish in floating cages in the river.
“Just like other farmers in the same trade, I have to recheck the strength of the cages.
“I also need to prepare medicine for my fish. I’m worried that the fish won’t be able to adjust to such drastic changes,” he said.
The level of the Mekong has increased by one to two metres since the Chinese dam started releasing water.
Many provinces in Thailand have been hit by water shortages. Smaller amounts of water have been released from dams to try to ensure that existing water supplies will be available for public consumption and to maintain ecological balance until the rainy season starts.
With less water from the dams, seawater intrusion is affecting some farms near Bangkok.
Bangkok Governor MR Sukhumbhand Paribatra has instructed wastewater treatment plants in the capital to deliver treated water to farms to help them scrape through the drought.