China to release more water to alleviate SE Asia drought

China to release more water to alleviate SE Asia drought

Cambodia fears drought due to insufficient water from upper Mekong

In this March 28 photo, workers repair a dried up irrigation canal at Chai Nat province. Much of Southeast Asia is suffering its worst drought in 20 or more years. Tens of millions of people in the region are affected by the low level of the Mekong, a rice bowl-sustaining river system that flows into Laos, Thailand, Cambodia and Vietnam.(AP photo)
In this March 28 photo, workers repair a dried up irrigation canal at Chai Nat province. Much of Southeast Asia is suffering its worst drought in 20 or more years. Tens of millions of people in the region are affected by the low level of the Mekong, a rice bowl-sustaining river system that flows into Laos, Thailand, Cambodia and Vietnam.(AP photo)

BEIJING -- China will release more water from a dam in its southwestern province of Yunnan to help alleviate a drought in parts of Southeast Asia, China's Foreign Ministry said on Tuesday, following an initial release begun last month.

The water already began being released on Monday from the Jinghong dam, and will continue to be released until the "low-water period" is over, ministry spokesman Lu Kang told a daily news briefing.

The actual amount of water released will be decided upon by how much water there is to release upstream and the demands of downstream users, Mr Lu added.

China's releases of water show the effectiveness of "water facilities" in helping control floods and address droughts, he said.

China has said that the water released will benefit Thailand, Cambodia, Laos, Myanmar, and Vietnam.

Thailand is facing its worst water shortage in two decades, with 14 out of 76 provinces hit and large swathes of agricultural land at risk.

Cambodian Prime Minister Hun Sen expressed concern on Monday that if low water levels in the Mekong River persist, Cambodia could be "seriously affected" by drought and the encroachment of sea water.

Speaking at a Buddhist ceremony in Prey Veng province, Hun Sen said that the river's low level has already resulted in sea water flowing about 100 kilometres into the Mekong delta in Vietnam, and that it could reach Cambodia as well in the absence of sufficient freshwater.

The premier added that during his recent visit to China, he requested the upper Mekong country allow a larger volume of water to flow down the river.

He said he also asked Thailand, Myanmar and Laos not to block any more water than is essential for their own usage, so as not to trigger drought conditions in the lower Mekong countries.

In Vietnam, some 1.8 million people are facing water shortages and the government says 230,000 hectares of rice has been destroyed in the central and southern regions this year.

While China and Vietnam are involved in an increasingly bitter territorial dispute in the South China Sea, the two communist-led countries have traditionally had close ties.

Beijing and Hanoi have also been trying to repair ties severely harmed in 2014 when Beijing parked an oil rig in waters off the Vietnamese coast, leading to anti-China riots.


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