Mekong River water levels surge

By Minh Nga   August 9, 2023 | 04:00 am PT
Mekong River water levels surge
Fishermen fish in the Mekong River in Nakhon Phanom, Thailand. Photo by Reuters/Soe Zeya Tun
Water levels in the Lower Mekong River Basin (LMB) have increased rapidly and are projected to rise further over the next five days, says the Mekong River Commission (MRC).

Heavy rainfall across the Mekong region which began on August 5 has contributed to the rise, putting the river levels in most monitoring stations above their long-term values, the MRC said in a statement.

"The region has received more than average rainfall in August alone, or approximately 40% higher than it was in 2021 and 2022 over the same period," Sothea Khem, the MRC Secretariat Flood Forecasting Specialist, was quoted as saying.

Due to low pressure in the LMB, Dr Khem adds, some parts of Laos and Thailand were hit harder by flash flood last weekend. The situation has since triggered water levels to rise and affected properties and livelihoods.

In Thailand's Chiang Khan, the station water level jumped from 7.7 m to 12.26 m during 1–8 August. Over the next five days, a further rise of 0.5 m is expected. Its alarm level is 14.5 m.

Lao capital Vientiane saw its river level jump by 4.3 m, or 40%, over the same period. Over the next five days, the river level is predicted to rise between 2.34 m and 3.32 m.

The increase will put the station level in the alarm state (11.5 m), while the flood warning is 12.5 m.

From Nakhon Phanom in Thailand to Pakse in Laos, the river levels rose by more than 2.5 m and will continue rising about 2 m over the next five days. As a result, the water level at Nakhon Phanom will reach its alarm level of 11.5 m on Thursday and flood level (12 m) on Friday.

In Cambodia, water levels from the stretches in Stung Treng to Kratrie increased from 0.92 m to 2.59 m over the same period. Over the next five days, the levels are likely to drop from 0.2 m to 1 m.

However, in Vietnam, water levels on the Mekong River remained lower than their long-term values due to tidal effects.

The Xayaubri hydropower operator has warned it may release water from its dam over the coming days and downstream communities should be prepared for the changes in river levels, according to a notification to the Lao Ministry of Energy and Mines.

The operator added that it had already "activated the appropriate emergency action plan."

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