China to open reservoir gates in effort to combat Southeast Asia drought

By Vuong Duc Anh   March 16, 2016 | 01:21 am PT
China has announced plans to release water into the Mekong River from one of its dams located in Yunnan province starting from March 15 in order to help Vietnam and other Southeast Asian countries that are suffering from prolonged drought.

Locals in Vietnam's southern provinces, located around Mekong Delta, are suffering from the worst drought and salinity in the last century.

“We will release water from the Jinghong hydropower station from March 15 until April 10,” Lu Kang, a spokesperson from China's Ministry of Foreign Affairs, said yesterday.

Since the end of 2015, countries along the Mekong River have been suffering from serious drought due to the effects of El Nino, Kang said.

He said that China is ready to help and cooperate with other countries to manage water resources and combat disasters in an effort to protect local people.

Prior to China's announcement, Vietnam made a request on March 14 asking for China’s Jinghong hydropower plant, located upstream on the Mekong River in Yunnan province, to release water from its reservoir to help with drought relief in some parts of Vietnam's Mekong Delta.

The Mekong River rises in China and flows through a number of countries, including Burma, Laos, Thailand, Cambodia and Vietnam.

El Nino has caused the total rainfall average in areas the river flows through to fall by 20-30 percent.

Water levels in the section of the Mekong River that flows through Vietnam have fallen by 50 percent, leading to extended saline intrusion in the Delta - the country's main agricultural area.

In some places, saltwater intrusion has extended nearly 100 kilometers inland.

Reports from Vietnam's Ministry of Agriculture show that the ongoing drought and salinity in the Mekong Delta has decimated thousands of hectares of crops and severely affected local communities.

Prime Minister Nguyen Tan Dung announced earlier that Vietnam will allocate VND 15 trillion ($670 million) to combat what is considered a “historical disaster”.

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