Wednesday, 8 February 2017

Unusually low water levels on Mekong play havoc with river traffic

#expeditioncruising .

Firsthand reports reaching us from Laos indicate unusually low water levels are playing havoc with cruise itineraries on the upper Mekong.

One prominent cruise company has been forced to bus their passengers 200km to meet the vessel.

Stranded vessels in the Mekong Delta (SE Asia Globe)
Concern about water flows along the Mekong are nothing new, especially since dam projects in China have caused serious disruption to normal seasonal river flows. This is despite large clearance projects to make navigation safer for all countries that benefit from the waterway. Thailand's 'The Nation' reports that these clearance projects may not be taking environmental effects into full account.

Of immediate concern are these unusually low river levels a full month ahead of the normal low water season (March-May). Cargo vessels are reporting groundings and striking rocks normally safely below the vessels' draft.

Additional impact includes the impediment of sediment dispersal, a normal natural effect that is vital to fish and agriculture. The Chinese dams are disrupting this normal pattern, says Le Anh Tuan, a senior lecturer at Can Tho University’s College of Environment and Natural Resources.

"The measures such as a flushing system to release sediment do not work effectively," he said. “I don’t believe in the sediment flushing mechanism design because once you build the dam, you use the river for 100 kilometres as the reservoir and the sediment start depositing at the head of the reservoir 100km from the dam.”

Apart from seasonal disruption to tourism and agriculture, there exists widespread concern among environmental bodies that over-exploitation and risky development along the Mekong will have far reaching effects to the many traditional people whose livelihood depends on this life-giving river.

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