Asean needs to act on Mekong River

Two events happened last month that went largely unnoticed by most of the mainstream media in Southeast Asia. One was the third Lancang-Mekong Cooperation (LMC) Leaders’ Meeting between China and the five Mekong members of Asean — Cambodia, Laos, Myanmar, Thailand and Vietnam. The other was the inaugural Mekong-US Partnership Ministerial Meeting between America and the same Asean countries.

At the LMC Leaders’ Meeting, Chinese Premier Li Keqiang pledged to share water management data from its portion of the Mekong River — also known as the Lancang River — for the whole year with the rest of the Mekong countries. This is a welcome change for the downstream Asean countries, particularly after a historic drought crisis in 2019 where the water levels in the Mekong River fell to their lowest in more than 100 years. While this is partly driven by the impacts of climate change, experts believed that China’s 11 hydro dams in the upper stream of the Mekong River had something to do with it and other drought disasters in the last two years.

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