By Phnom Penh Post, through The Nation
The Mekong River water levels during the early rainy season in June, were among the lowest on record, according to the Mekong River Commission (MRC). But, the situation is expected to improve at the end of this month.
"From the upper reaches of the lower Mekong basin in Thailand's Chiang Saen district to Cambodia's Neak Luong [commune in Prey Veng province's Peamro district], the water levels are below those that occurred in 1992, which was by far the year with the lowest flow on record.
"The water in Kratie, at 9.31m, is about 5.4m below its long-term average but is about 0.16m higher than the lowest level ever recorded. Between June 10 and July 18, there was a drop of about 0.38m at the station," an MRC press release said.
MRC press communications officer Meas Sopheak told The Post on Sunday that people who depend on the river for their livelihoods would be impacted most. “The lower water level also makes navigation on the river difficult,” he said.
Mok Ponlok, Kratie provincial Fisheries Administration deputy chief and head of the Irrawaddy dolphin conservation group, declined to comment on Sunday.
The MRC's analysis and available information said some key factors have contributed to the current state of what is described as the “regional low flow” of the Mekong river basin."There has been very deficient rainfall over the Mekong basin since the beginning of this year.
“The average lower-than-normal rain volume in the lower Mekong basin during June and July could also cause deficient groundwater in the region, meaning there is insufficient groundwater contributing to the Mekong mainstream.
"The amount of water flowing from the upper part of the basin could also be a potential contribution to the low flow," the MRC said.
A notification from China previously said that from July 5-19, the amount of water flowing out of the Jinghong dam in Yunnan province would be fluctuating from 1,050-1,250 to 504-600 cubic metres per second due to "grid maintenance".
But the MRC said that with rain forecasted at the end of this month, the current state of the lower water in the basin is expected to improve.
Ministry of Water Resources and Meteorology spokesperson Chan Yutha told The Post on Sunday that all areas along the Mekong have been affected, not only Kratie.
"Other provinces have also suffered from low water levels, including Phnom Penh. Cambodia has not experienced such low water levels for many years.
“Our region is always affected by the El Nino phenomenon, which causes extreme heat and insufficient rain.
“So, as can be seen across the Kingdom, there was almost no unexpected rain during the dry season, and the rainfall during the early raining season is also interrupted,” he said.
Farmland has been affected, Yutha said, but the effect of El Nino would soon weaken and the water level will increase.
Last Wednesday, China agreed to continue sharing hydrological data with the MRC, which the MRC said would contribute to better river monitoring and flood forecasting in the Mekong countries.
MRC secretariat CEO Dr An Pich Hatda said on Friday: “This agreement is another milestone in China-MRC cooperation.
“Not only does it demonstrate the significance of enhanced information sharing between China and the MRC, but also their commitment to continue and increase cooperation.”
Sopheak told The Post on Sunday: "For more than 16 years, the Chinese data have proven to be very helpful to downstream countries for better planning, river monitoring and flood forecasting.
“Without the data from China, we would have incomplete information on the state of water levels in the Mekong basin,” he said.