False report undermines Mekong cooperation

False report undermines Mekong cooperation

A Lao boat negotiates a curve in the Mekong River between Chiang Saen and Chiang Khong districts, Chiang Rai. Pattarapong Chatpattarasill
A Lao boat negotiates a curve in the Mekong River between Chiang Saen and Chiang Khong districts, Chiang Rai. Pattarapong Chatpattarasill

The recent media report on the Mekong River which contained false accusations against China ignores the joint efforts made by China, Thailand and other relevant parties to promote cooperation on Mekong water resources for the benefit of the people in the region. These accusations mislead the readers and undermine the good atmosphere of sub-regional cooperation.

The Chinese Embassy in Thailand would like to share the following facts:

I. Protection of the Mekong River

The Mekong River, connecting China, Thailand, Cambodia, Laos, Myanmar and Vietnam closely together, is a gift from nature and embodies a natural bond of mutual support. While committing itself to promote green development and "protect the environment like we protect our eyes and treat the environment like it is our lives", China also bears this concept in mind when facilitating cooperation with Mekong countries.

Under the framework of Lancang-Mekong Cooperation, our six countries have established the Environmental Cooperation Centre and Water Resources Cooperation Centre and implemented the Green Lancang-Mekong Initiative as well as a Five-Year Plan of Action Plan on Lancang-Mekong Cooperation.

We have also actively engaged in sustainable infrastructure construction, investment and financing. With the aim of building a green railway, the China-Laos Railway project has fused environmental protection with construction at each stage of the design, implementation and inspection of the project, which is hailed by the government and people of Laos.

The six countries, international organisations and NGOs have never stopped their efforts to enhance technical cooperation, as well as personnel and information exchanges for the purpose of realising environmental protection and the sustainable development of the Mekong basin.

II. On so-called 'rapids blasting'

From 2016 to 2017, the preliminary work was done on the second phase of the Navigation Channel Improvement Project under the Greater Mekong Subregion (GMS) Economic Cooperation Programme, according to the consensus reached by the governments of China, Thailand, Myanmar and Laos.

Experts from the four countries carried out the Environmental and Social Impact Assessment on the premise of not impacting the natural and geographical features of the Lancang-Mekong River.

The preliminary work also involved relevant parties including NGOs and took into full consideration different parties' views.

Up until now, our four countries have had no engineering plan, let alone taken any action to blast rapids.

III. The role of cascade hydropower

Frequent floods and droughts in the Mekong basin are the effects of global climate change. The construction of cascade reservoirs on the Lancang River is an effective measure against climate change.

The cascade hydropower stations which discharge water in the dry season and store water in the wet season, are able to help adjust the water level of the Lancang-Mekong River.

Through scientific regulation, the average outflow of the Lancang River in the dry season could be 70% higher than that under natural conditions, and in the wet season, 30% lower than that under natural conditions, which effectively reduces economic losses caused by the abnormal fluctuation of water levels of the Mekong River to the riverine communities.

Currently, the amount of water at the Chiang Saen-Vientiane section of the Mekong River could be increased by 30% to 50%, and the water level could be raised by 0.6 to 1.9 metres during the dry season.

In the wet season, the amount of water could be reduced by 10% to 20%, and the water level could be lowered by 0.4 to 1.3 metres.

Thanks to the reservoirs' water supplement during the dry season, ships could navigate the upper and middle reaches of the Mekong River, where the water is shallow and shoals scatter, for the first time.

Local communities are thus provided with a more convenient and green mode of transportation.

In 2013 and 2016, the entire Lancang-Mekong River was struck by severe drought. China, although hit by the disaster, provided emergency water supplements to the downstream Mekong River communities despite the difficulties, helping 60 million people in the downstream area recover from the drought.

The Mekong River Commission (MRC) wrote on its website in 2017 that droughts in the Mekong basin are not caused by upstream water dams, but rather, when droughts occur due to extreme weather conditions, upstream water dams play an important role by storing water in the wet season for discharge in the dry season.

IV. Notification of Hydrological Data

As an upstream country, China always pays great attention to the concerns and requirements of countries in the downstream reaches of the Mekong River, and stays in close communication with them to share hydrological data and facilitate cooperation in related areas.

Starting from 2003, the Chinese side has been providing flood season hydrological data of the Lancang River through the MRC to Thailand, Cambodia, Laos and Vietnam, informing them in advance of the regulation schemes of the dams.

Both the MRC and downstream countries have expressed their appreciation.

In early June this year, at the special meeting held by the Joint Working Group of Lancang-Mekong Water Resources Cooperation, the Chinese side provided data directly to downstream countries.

The line of communication between China and downstream countries in terms of hydrological data is unimpeded and transparent.

Especially, in accordance with the assessment done by the MRC in 2016, the combined capacity of reservoirs built by Mekong countries on the branches of the river has exceeded that of the cascade reservoirs built by China on the main stream of the Lancang River.

The outflow of the Lancang River only accounts for 13.5% of the runoff at the estuary of the Mekong River.

A shared river is a shared future.

The green, coordinated, and sustainable development of the Mekong River calls for mutual trust, understanding, support, enhanced coordination, mutual accommodation of each other's concerns and proper balance between economic development and ecological conservation.

The Chinese side will work even more closely with countries including Thailand, through mechanisms such as the LMC, MRC and GMS, to make the Lancang-Mekong River a river of friendship, cooperation and prosperity.

Yang Yang is the spokesperson of the Chinese embassy in Bangkok.

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