Water in Mekong River falls to critical level, sand dunes

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NAKHON PHANOM, Dec 2  – The water levels of the Mekong River have fallen to a critical level, posing threats to people’s livelihoods, farming activities and tour boat operations.

The Mekong water level in the northeastern province of Nakhon Phanom dropped to one of the lowest on record and fell at the fastest pace in 50 years.

Low rainfall in the past rainy season and water retention of Chinese dams are blamed for the worrying situation.  Farmers have faced problems and higher burden to find sufficient water.

Sand bars have emerged in the river and interrupted boat services.

A 62-year-old tour boat operator Narong Taosri said the water levels had fluctuated until it dropped unprecedentedly this time of the year.

Water color turned to ocean-like turquoise; “although it looked nice it could mean disaster will follow,” he said.

Cargo boats that Thai and Lao merchant rely for their border trade now have to make long detour.

Large ship like Mekong Paradise Cruise was forced to suspend its operation.  The ship was anchored and served only as a floating restaurant.

According to experts, the Mekong water levels during the rainy season from June to July are among the lowest on record due partly to below-average rainfall.

The average lower-than-normal rain volume in the lower Mekong basin during June-July could also cause the deficient groundwater in the region. This means there is insufficient groundwater contributing to the Mekong mainstream.