Thai authorities say the record low level of the Mekong River is directly linked to the dams that China has built along the river, although Chinese officials have rejected the allegation and refused to discuss the issue with riparian countries in the Mekong basin.
High ranking officials of Thailand's Water Resources Department insist that data collected over the past five years show that the major cause of the severe drought in the Mekong River is the construction of huge dams along the river in China's Yunnan province. China has a total of 8 dam projects planned on the Mekong. With four of those projects completed, China has to withhold water from the river to generate power from those dams.
China considers the segment of the Mekong that runs through its country its own. Therefore, its sees no need to hold multilateral talks on this issue, but says it is prepared to discuss the matter bilaterally.
The Chinese embassy in Bangkok had earlier issued a statement denying Chinese dams had anything to do with the record low level of the Mekong, saying the drought in the Mekong basin area is caused by last year's unusually low rainfalls.
Environmentalists, however, echo Thai officials' opinion that the drought in the Mekong basin is definitely linked to Chinese dams because, they say, most of the water feeding the Mekong River come from the snow melt-down in the Tibetan region of China and, with massive dams blocking the river, that water cannot flow down to the lower Mekong region .
The record low level of the Mekong has greatly impacted Laos, with the capital city of Vientiane currently facing severe water shortage because of its inability to pump up enough water for treatment to supply the city.
Songrit Pongern reported from Bangkok on 22 March 2010. For more details of this report in Lao, click on our audio files at the top right.