Lao EconomyNature / Wildlife

Water Recedes In Rivers As Dry Season Bites

Source: Vientiane Times

Millions of cubic metres of water may be lost from rivers in Laos from March to May as the mercury soars to its highest levels and rainfall is scant.

The Meteorology Department of the Ministry of Agriculture and Forestry has warned that several areas of the country may suffer in these dry conditions.

An official at the Agriculture Department, Mr Litsana Thongsanguan, told Vientiane Times on Thursday that the Meteorology Department had reported that some areas were likely to be seriously affected by water shortages from the end of this month until early May.

“At this time of the year the weather is very hot and river levels around the country plummet,” he said.

The hot season has begun this month but there have yet to be any reports of water shortages affecting crops in Laos’ 18 provinces. However, the neighbouring countries of Thailand, Vietnam and Myanmar have insufficient water for agriculture and some rice growing areas are in dire straits.

A dried up rice field in Saravan province. –Photo Ngae

The Mandalay area in the north of Myanmar has allocated 40,500 hectares for crop growing this summer but the agriculture authorities have warned that drought conditions are developing.

The extreme water shortage in Myanmar is attributed to the EI Nino weather phenomenon, a climatic cycle that originates in the Pacific Ocean and has a global impact on weather patterns. Drought conditions in Myanmar are causing severe hardship for farmers, who will probably not get any relief until the monsoon arrives in May.

The situation in Thailand is also causing distress and people are even worried that they might not have enough water when the Thai New Year holiday rolls around next month.

According to the China Daily this week, a Southwest China hydropower station has increased water discharge up to 2,190 cubic metres a second in a trans-boundary river, in order to provide emergency water supplies to Vietnam and other countries in the region.

Likewise, the Jinghong hydropower station in Southwest China’s Yunnan province will increase its water discharge in the Lancang-Mekong River until April 10. It will benefit Cambodia, Laos, Myanmar, Thailand and Vietnam.

In Laos, some farmland may also be affected by the severe conditions but it is not known if provincial authorities have checked the state of rice fields. Mr Litsana said that if farmland is short of water in some provinces, the agricultural authorities can release water from irrigation systems for use by farmers

It is likely that the water in scores of small rivers will dry up, but the larger rivers where irrigation systems operate should sustain normal levels for the time of year.