China 'ready to share Mekong data'

China 'ready to share Mekong data'

Concern grows about low water levels and dam development

A local resident paddles a boat at the future site of the Luang Prabang dam on the Mekong River in Laos in February of this year. (Reuters File Photo)
A local resident paddles a boat at the future site of the Luang Prabang dam on the Mekong River in Laos in February of this year. (Reuters File Photo)

China is ready to share data on water flows into the Mekong River, a longstanding request of downstream Southeast Asian countries, a Thai foreign ministry official said on Friday.

Control of the waters is politically sensitive, and the livelihoods of millions of farmers and fishermen depend on the river. A report published by a US research company this year accused China of holding back large amounts of water during a drought last year, a finding that Beijing has disputed.

China has no formal water treaties with the lower Mekong countries — Laos, Thailand, Myanmar, Cambodia and Vietnam — and is currently only sharing limited data during the monsoon season on flows through the river that it calls the Lancang.

“China stressed that it is ready to share information with us in a clear, meaningful and transparent way throughout the year,” Nikorndej Balankura, an ambassador attached to the Ministry of Foreign Affairs, told reporters on Friday. “Information will be shared seamlessly.”

China’s Foreign Ministry said in response to a request for comment that it did not want to pre-empt an online summit on Monday of leaders of the Lancang-Mekong Cooperation (LMC) group, which includes China and the Mekong countries.

Lower Mekong countries already share water data through the Mekong River Commission (MRC), an intergovernmental body with headquarters in Vientiane. The LMC water centre is based in Beijing.

The MRC earlier this month called for better data-sharing between countries and companies that operate hydropower dams along the Mekong as flows have hit record lows for a second consecutive year. 

A report by the commission attributes the low water level to two years of reduced rainfall and the operations of 13 Mekong hydropower dams — two in Laos and 11 in China — as well as dams on Mekong tributaries in Laos. The Mekong also flows through part of Myanmar.


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