Xayaburi Dam Denies Responsibility for Dry Mekong River

Xayaburi Dam

The construction company behind the Xayaburi dam in northern Laos has dismissed allegations that the dam is one of the reasons for the sharp drop in water levels in the downstream stretches of the Mekong River.

CK Power Company, the construction company behind the Xayaburi Dam, said that the company raised the water level in the reservoir for technical purposes only once in October last year.

The company’s comment came after Thailand blamed the dam for causing low water levels in the Mekong, accusing the dam of storing water for test runs.

Some test runs on the Xayaburi dam did commence on July 15 and were planned to continue until July 29, to prepare for the official start of operations in October, according to Thailand’s Office of the National Water Resources (ONWR).

“The trial would severely impact the drought-hit provinces in the northeastern region, whose tributaries rely on water from the Mekong River,” ONWR said.

The office added that Thai water level gauges below the dam found that water levels had dropped by almost 1.8 meters, which is the lowest in 28 years, since the dam began to store water on July 9.

Accordingly, Thailand has asked the Lao government to suspend the test run of the Xayaburi dam.

Many industry observers believe, however, that the allegations lack credibility, citing the fact that the Xayaburi dam is a run-of-river type installation.

A run-of-river type dam is designed to produce power with a limited amount of water storage, or no water storage at all.

Each day the same amount of water that flows into the reservoir is released from the reservoir to produce power.

This is different from a storage type dam that collects water in the reservoir during the wet season and slowly releases over the dry season to produce power. The Nam Theun 2 and other Mekong dams in China fall into this category.

Meanwhile, Deputy Managing Director of CK Power Company, Anuparb Wonglakorn, criticized the Jinghong dam in China’s southern Yunnan province, for releasing less water downstream, causing the water level in the Mekong to drop.

Dr. Anoulak Kittikhoun, Chief Strategy and Partnership Officer at the Mekong River Commission,  is among those who share a similar view.

During his interview with Lao Nationa Television on July 25, he said storage by the Jinghong Dam in China is one of the main reasons why the water level is so low at present

“The dam has announced it will be releasing less water due to maintenance over ten days, from 5 to 19 July. After this, it will revert to its normal release schedule,” said Dr Anoulak.

He informed reporters that the main reason for the low level of the Mekong River is simply a lack of rainfall.

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