River dams in China helped alleviate drought along Lancang-Mekong, research finds

China was one of the countries that suffered the most from a severe drought along the Lancang-Mekong River in 2019, hydrology researchers found, in contrast with allegations by some foreign researchers which blamed China for the drought in countries on lower reaches of the river.

As a severe drought hit countries in the Lancang-Mekong River Basin (LMRB) from late 2019 to early 2020, risking water shortages and damage to crop production, some US media outlets blamed China for the disaster. Such reports alleged dams built in China controlled the upstream flow to use the water for domestic hydropower or irrigation.

A latest report by Chinese researchers refuted this causal link and reckless accusation by US media, as scientists have found continued high temperatures and decreasing rainfall are the main causes of the drought.

Scholars from Tsinghua University’s Centre for International Transboundary Water and Eco-Security and researchers from the Department of Hydraulics at China Institute of Water Resources and Hydropower Research collected hydro meteorological data covering both upstream and downstream areas and utilized state-of-the-art methods to investigate the drought’s effects on the LMRB and the impact of reservoir regulation on stream flow.

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Hu Yuwei