thediplomat_ China has promised to discharge water from a dam along the Lancang River (better known as the Mekong) to help alleviate drought conditions in Southeast Asia. Foreign Ministry spokesperson Lu Kang announced Tuesday in a regular press conference that China will release water from the Jinghong hydropower station in Yunnan province from March 15 to April 10, to provide water “for emergency use” by countries downstream.
“People living along the Lancang-Mekong River are nourished by the same river,” Lu noted. “It goes without saying that friends should help each other when help is needed.”
Yet the question of dams on the Mekong has not been as friendly as Lu makes it seem. As The Diplomat’s Luke Hunt noted last week, Thailand, Vietnam, Laos, and Cambodia have been squabbling over dam construction and water usage, particularly as a severe drought threatens rice crop yields across the Indochina Peninsula.
China is also a part of that conversation – a major part, as the Mekong (called the Lancang in China) originates on the Tibetan plateau and flows through the provinces of Qinghai, Tibet, and Yunnan before ever reaching Southeast Asia. China opened its first large dam on the Lancang, the Manwan in Yunnan, in 1994, and added the Dachaoshan dam in 2003. In recent years, hydropower construction has revved into high gear, with China completing four additional dams since 2009 — and plans for another seven in the works. Continue reading “Facing Mekong Drought, China to Release Water From Yunnan Dam”