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Local Communities Left Out of Mekong Water Security Talks

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river, Local Communities Left Out of Mekong Water Security Talks

A China continues to dominate the Mekong River activist are asking lower Mekong governments to show political will in tackling water security and environmental issues in the region, as the first ever Water Security Dialogue is held by the Association of Southeast Asian Nations (Asean) and the Mekong River Commission (MRC).

The two-day dialogue hosted by the MRC Secretariat, in cooperation with the Asean Secretariat, with designated meeting hubs in Mekong countries. Delegates from other Asean countries will also participate online due to Covid restrictions.

Pianporn Deetes, Regional Campaigns and Communications Director of the International Rivers Southeast Asia Program, said the dialogue is a good initiative to start talking about water security in the region, but political will is needed to make progress.

“From upriver in China down to the delta in Vietnam, throughout the course of the Mekong River, people are suffering from adverse impacts of hydropower dam projects. I hope the governments of Mekong countries will have courage to discuss this problem and find a substantial solution,” she said. Ms Pianporn said she noticed there is no representative from local communities at the meeting, which was a shame, as local input is needed.

According to MRC, the dialogue will include panel discussions among officials, technical experts, and partners from the Mekong and wider Asean region. They will discuss water scarcity, water pollution, and water-related disaster risks, such as flood and drought.

Over 100 participants from Asean member states, development partners, and regional and international organisations are expected to join the discussion.

The first-of-its kind Asean–MRC Water Security Dialogue is expected to become a biennial event, with the next scheduled for 2023.

Lower Mekong water flows restricted by China

Last week the Mekong River Commission has reported that despite China’s pledge to not restrict water flows from its Jinghong hydropower dam on the Mekong River until the end of this month, water levels in the lower Mekong  countries have decreased over the past week.

Mekong River Commission which counts Thailand, Laos, Cambodia and Vietnam as members said the process of restricting water flows from the Jinghong dam, which lies on the upper part of the river in Yunnan province, appeared to have started last Thursday.

“As this is the rainy season, the amount of rainfall we receive over a given period is important to the Mekong River levels,” said the MRC secretariat, said on Tuesday.

“A sudden increase or decrease in river level, whether due to dam releases or flash floods, poses a great deal of challenges not only to accurate forecasting of river levels, but also to life in the river and riverine communities.”