Huge volumes of water being discharged from a hydropower dam on the Mekong River in southern China’s Yunnan province have placed the country’s downstream neighbors on high alert amid concerns over possible flash floods.
Officials in Laos, Thailand and Cambodian are closely monitoring levels of the Southeast Asian artery after being informed by Beijing that the 1,750-megawatt Jinghong dam will drain water from its reservoir from Sept. 5-30.
A provincial official of the Lao Ministry of Natural Resources and Environment told RFA’s Lao Service that China informed Vientiane on Sept. 1 about the release of water from the dam’s reservoir.
While the water release has yet to cause any flooding in Laos, the official in Bokeo province warned Monday that water levels had already risen on the Mekong in the provincial capital of Houayxay.
“The water level measured at Houayxay station is now over six meters (20 feet),” said the official, who spoke on condition of anonymity.
He said that the water release could “add three more meters (10 feet)” to the level of the Mekong if the amount of discharge was increased, without specifying when or by how much, but added that the Houayxay region was not in danger of flooding until the river reached 16 meters (52.5 feet).
The Chinese dam on the mainstream of the Mekong is currently discharging water at a rate of 535 cubic meters per second from the reservoir, which is estimated to contain 591-602 million cubic meters, Thailand’s The Nation reported Monday.
The Jinghong dam has a maximum discharge capacity of 9,000 cubic meters per second which could result in a rise of the Mekong by three meters (10 feet) in Thailand’s Chiang Rai province within days, it said, citing Songklod Duanghaklang, director of the Chiang Rai Marine Office.