Mekong record low raises hydropower questions

An elderly fisherman anchored his small boat to the bank of the Mekong in north-eastern Thailand. Inside lay his morning catch of three fat barbs.

“We can catch plenty of fish,” said Thong-in Wenkham with a thin smile, “It’s easy for us when the water level is low like this.

“I can get up to 2,000 baht (US$65) for this catch. It’s a lot for a poor fisherman like me. But this is not happening every day.”

It was August in the district of Chiang Khan, the height of the rainy season. Yet the river’s level more closely resembled the dry season.

“Abnormal water levels are becoming quite normal, but this year’s extreme is frightening me because it’s troubling the migration of the fish upriver into the tributaries to reproduce,” Thong-in admitted.

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Pratch Rujivanarom