As the Mekong Withers, China Releases Water from Controversial Upstream Dams

A top-ranking Chinese official declared that the country is releasing more water from its dams on the upper Mekong River in order to aid drought-stricken downstream neighbors. 

The announcement from Foreign Minister Wang Yi, made at a meeting of the Lancang-Mekong Cooperation group, comes as the beleaguered waterway continues to wane due to drought, dam building, and sand mining. 

Water shortages and decades of mismanagement converged last year as the river tumbled to its lowest levels in a century. Severe conditions remain throughout the region, which is currently in the midst of its dry season. 

The Mekong originates in China’s Tibetan Plateau, where it is called the Lancang. The river flows some 4,000 kilometers (2,700 miles) through Myanmar, Thailand, Laos, Cambodia, and Vietnam. For years, a changing environment and a hydropower construction boom have jeopardized the waterway, which provides fish, irrigation, and drinking water to an estimated 60 million people in Southeast Asia. 

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Kayla Ritter