NONG KHAI -Despite concerns from downstream countries like Vietnam, which is suffering its worst drought in almost a century, four temporary pumps have begun sucking 47 million cubic metres of water out of the Mekong River.
Expert from Thailannd’s Royal Irrigation Department Sanya Saengphumphong said the department was conducting studies on how to divert water from the Mekong for use and building temporary pumping stations with the capacity of 40 million cubic meters.
The pumping stations are expected to benefit more than 10,000 Rai of drought-hit areas. The pumping stations will be upgraded into permanent ones with the capacity of 100 million cubic meters in 2017.
The department also had a plan to divert water from the Moei and Salween rivers in Myanmar into the Bhumibol dam in Thailand, said the expert.
Mr. Sanya however expressed concerns over the nationâ€™s water situation although the departmentâ€™s latest water management plan would ensure sufficient water until July this year.
The department therefore had to continue monitoring water use especially by waterside communities, said Mr. Sanya.
Mekong at lowest level in 90 years
While Thailand continues to block rivers feeding the Mekong and divert small volumes, Vietnam said it had recorded the lowest levels of the Mekong River since 1926.
Salinity in the Mekong Delta is a growing problem for Vietnam’s rice bowl and has been made worse by rising sea levels pushing salty water upstream.
Modelling conducted by the Mekong River Commission predicted salt intrusion on Vietnam’s main Mekong channel would reach up to 162 kilometres inland this year, which is nearing the Cambodian border.
A normal year would see salt intruding only 98 kilometres inland.
Thailand is hoping the rainy season comes in late May, but the current El Nino weather pattern has so far exceeded forecasts â€” meaning South-East Asia’s water resources and regional relations could be further tested.