Mekong dam: China cuts river flow 50 per cent, is slammed for lack of warning

China’s decision to hold back the Mekong River’s water flow at a hydropower dam for close to a month will disrupt fisheries and local livelihoods along the waterway that is a lifeline for 60 million people, watchers and activists have warned.

The Chinese water resources ministry on Tuesday told neighbouring countries downstream on Southeast Asia’s longest river that it had reduced the water flow until January 24 because of “maintenance for the transmission lines of the power grid”. Activists said the notice arrived too late.

The Jinghong Hydropower Station has cut the water discharge rate to 1,000 cubic metres (35,315 cubic feet) per second, a decrease of 47 per cent, the ministry said on a website set up as part of a data-sharing agreement between China and its Mekong neighbours.

This came a day after Mekong Dam Monitor, a new monitoring system, said there had been a sudden drop in the water level at a section in Thailand and said China had failed to notify downstream countries of water restrictions that were first detected on December 31.  

Catherine Wong and Maria Siow