MRC Chief and Thai DPM Call for Earlier Warnings of Water Discharges in Mekong River

0
2387
MRC CEO Anoulak Kittikhoun meets Gen. Prawit Wongsuwon, Deputy Prime Minister and Chairman of the Thai National Mekong Committee
MRC CEO Anoulak Kittikhoun (left) meets Gen. Prawit Wongsuwon, Deputy Prime Minister and Chairman of the Thai National Mekong Committee.

Thailand’s high-level representative to the Mekong River Commission (MRC) Council urged China and other riverine governments to be more transparent regarding water release along the Mekong River.

The appeal from Gen. Prawit Wongsuwon, Deputy Prime Minister and Chairman of the Thai National Mekong Committee, came during the first formal meeting with the CEO of the MRC Secretariat, Dr. Anoulak Kittikhoun.

In his meeting with Dr. Anoulak in Bangkok, the Thai official noted that beyond the MRC’s pivotal role in “water diplomacy,” he wanted the intergovernmental organization to be an impartial, objective “knowledge broker” – disseminating vital data from each country.

Unannounced water discharges from dam projects upstream can be harmful in many ways, from flooding villages to washing away crops and affecting fish survival.

“We need better information sharing and timely notification from China and others,” said Wongsuwon. “This is important for the protection of lives, livelihoods, property, and aquatic life.”

China agreed in 2020 to share year-round hydrological data from two of its dams: not just during the wet season, but during the dry season, when it draws upon stored water supplies.

Such data is critical for countries across the Lower Mekong River Basin, for them to more accurately monitor water levels and forecast flood and drought.

However, one lingering issue is that the agreement never defined what constitutes an “unusual” rise or fall – so the term remains open to interpretation.

In their bilateral meeting on Monday, Wongsuwon and Anoulak found common ground in several areas, including the need for cutting-edge technology to monitor the river and its tributaries.

In a recent OpEd, the MRC CEO touted his top three MRC priorities as “knowledge, technology, and cooperation.”

To that end, the MRC is now equipping new water level monitoring stations, or renovating existing stations, with “telemetry” technology. This system enables a station to transmit water levels and rainfall data every 15 minutes: initially to a central MRC database, then to each Member Country.

Following his meeting with the Thai representative, Dr. Anoulak concluded: “I’m pleased that we share many of the same concerns and priorities.”