Chinese dam discharge affects Mekong in Chiang Rai

Water volume in the Mekong River in Chiang Saen district of Chiang Rai has increased following discharges from a dam in Yunnan province of China. (Photo by Chinpat Chaimon)

CHIANG RAI: The volume of water in the Mekong River has risen rapidly following discharges from a dam in Yunnan province in southern China, but the impact on the actual water level is in dispute.

Pakamas Viera, deputy chairman of the provincial chamber of commerce, said on Saturday that the volume of the Mekong in Chiang Saen district was the highest it had been in several years.

However, a harbour official in Chiang Saen said a measurement taken on Saturday showed the water depth of 6.5 metres was normal for this time in the rainy season.

Ms Pakamas said that Chinese authorities on Thursday released water from the Jinghong dam in Yunnan at a rate of 3,000 cubic metres per second. The discharge peaked at 3,500 cu m per second before being gradually reduced to around 2,700 cu m per second, she said.

The rapid rise in the level of the river prompted Chinese authorities to warn operators of vessels along the Mekong to exercise caution. Large vessels were advised not to travel past the Chiang Rai bridge and to wait until the water level dropped.

However, the harbour official said the measurement taken in front of the Chiang Saen district office on Saturday, at 6.5 metres, was normal for this time of year.

The official said Thai authorities had received no notification from China about any dam water discharges at the high rate that was reported.

If the Jinghong dam released water at 3,000 cubic metres per second, the water level in the river in Chiang Saen would be close to 9 metres. Normally, the dam releases water at a rate of 1,000 cu m per second, said the official.

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