New research shows that China’s Mekong River dams held back large amounts of water during a damaging drought in Laos, Myanmar, Thailand, Cambodia and Vietnam (NY Times). The findings by Eyes on Earth Inc, a research and consulting company specializing in, were published in a US-government funded study (Bangkok Post). The drought, which saw the Lower Mekong at its lowest levels in more than 50 years, devastated millions who are sustained by its flow (Reuters). Chinese foreign minister, Wang Yi, said China was also suffering from arid conditions that were sucking water from one of the world’s most productive rivers (NY Times).
Satellite measurements of “surface wetness” in China, where the Upper Mekong flows, suggest the region in 2019 actually had slightly above-average combined rainfall and snowmelt (Bangkok Post). China’s government disputed the findings, saying there was low rainfall during last year’s monsoon season on its portion of the 4,350-km (2,700-mile) river (Reuters). Alan Basist, co-writer of the report, said “Satellite data doesn’t lie, there was plentiful water in that region, as other countries were under extreme duress” (NY Times). China – which has no formal water treaties with the lower Mekong countries – promised to investigate the causes of last year’s record drought (Reuters).