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Thanks—and Caution—as China Releases Water From Mekong Dam

In this photo taken, Saturday, April 3, 2010, Cambodian men take their horses for washing in the Mekong river bank near Khporp village, Kandal province about 22 kilometers (14 miles) north of Phnom Penh, Cambodia.

In January and February alone, Jinghong power station in Yunnan province released 2.3 billion cubic meters of water.

Farmers and development organizations say they welcome the release of water from a hydropower dam on the Mekong River in China, but they warned against negative impacts if too much water is discharged.

China is releasing the water from its Jinghong power station in Yunnan province, in order to help ease drought and help irrigation in Lower Mekong countries. In January and February alone, it released 2.3 billion cubic meters of water.

The Mekong River Commission, a consortium of governments from countries along the river, praised the discharge following a two-day meeting in Vietnam, calling it “good will” from China.

“I would encourage that the member countries use this extra volume of water in an appropriate and effective manner,” Le Duc Trung, chairman of the Mekong River Commission’s Joint Committee, said in a statement.

The pulse of water will not only help farmers, but Cambodian fishermen, as well.

Phork Nimul, a fisherman in O’Svay commune, Stung Treng province, said the water would help with his crops and enable fishing boats to better navigate the river, bringing in more fish to feed families. “First it helps boats to navigate, and second is that it would help with agriculture,” he said.

Some, however, remain cautious, fearing too much of a good thing.

Phork Sareith, chief of a fishing community in Stung Treng city’s Samaki commune, said that he is worried that too much water will be discharged, damaging crops that people grow on the banks of the Mekong.

“If they discharge too much water, it could affect people living along the Mekong River,” he said. “If too much water is to be released, the crops will be flooded, so it could affect the people living along the river.”

Tek Vannara, director of NGO Forum, said the water could help alleviate the effects of drought, especially in agricultural communities, but too much water could also do damage to ecosystems. Stored water is already “against the natural flow,” he said.