Envoys refute China’s water hegemony over Mekong with in-person tours
The Jinghong and Nuozhadu hydroelectric power stations, built on the Lancang River, have once been the target of suspicion and attacks from Western media and some political forces describing them as a gateway to “the hegemony of” China’s water ‘on the Mekong through control of the waterway with dams.
However, “Seeing is believing” became the most common word during the four-day visit of envoys from the six riparian countries to the hydropower plants. Visitors recognized China’s efforts to secure downstream water demand during dry and wet seasons and to control flooding as a “responsible upstream neighbor”, while learning about the operation and technology of hydropower projects and their potential contributions to flood regulation and drought management.
Jinghong Hydroelectric Station in Yunan Province, southwest China Photo: Hu Yuwei / GT
Recognition with real observation
Several political forces or NGOs supported by the government of certain countries have continued to criticize the role of China in the Mekong region in recent years and to denounce the “threat of dam” from China, citing only evidence and weak sources.
However, recognition by international experts and multiple peer-reviewed academic research publications have all refuted these baseless claims based on scientific evidence showing that downstream drought was primarily caused by reduced precipitation and rainfall. extreme weather conditions.
These claims demonize and exaggerate China’s influence on the region, but the fact is that the Lancang River Basin accounts for almost 20% of the entire Lancang-Mekong River Basin, while its runoff is only 13 , 5% and that the water consumption is only 0.6%. of the entire basin runoff, Zhong Yong, head of LMC China’s Joint Water Resources Cooperation Working Group, told the Global Times.
Independent research by China and other Mekong River countries, the Mekong River Commission (MRC) and international institutes shows that the proportion of Lancang runoff decreases along the mainstream while a large number of tributaries of the middle and lower Mekong contribute to a high influx.
But China’s responsibility has never ceased. The latest data showed that in the past two months, the Jinghong hydropower plant released more water than the river’s average natural flow recorded during the current dry season on the Mekong River.
“When I heard western countries talk about the damage caused by the Chinese dams in the Mekong, I felt it was serious. But when I came to see it was very different from what they said. Dams are very good at protecting the environment and rare animals, and especially in preventing flooding and drought in downstream countries, ”Sreng Sataro, Minister Counselor of the Cambodian Embassy in China, told the after his visit. “You see the Western media ignore the facts as they did with my country,” he noted.
Some of the delegates from the riparian countries told the Global Times that the visits changed their perception of upstream hydropower projects.
“It is not certain that the Chinese dams cause problems downstream. Some dams in Laos involve the participation of Chinese experts. They have done a very good job in improving people’s living conditions and creating more jobs. “said Thongsavanh Phyathep, Minister Counselor of the Laos Embassy in Laos. China, told the Global Times.
“We were concerned about building dams, but when we saw the real thing they did, I felt it was very good. They keep nature in good condition. It seems very safe. It’s a good experience that I saw with my eyes today, ”said Phyathep.
On April 28, envoys from Mekong River countries visit the Jinghong hydropower plant in Yunnan province, southwest China, and learn about its techniques for regulating water during droughts and floods. Photo: Hu Yuwei / GT
“In 2016, the Mekong countries suffered the worst drought in 100 years. It was China’s timely efforts to release water from the dam in the lower Mekong region that effectively alleviated the drought in these Mekong countries.” said Htun Htun Oo, second secretary of the Myanmar embassy in China.
Mongkol Visitstump, the Consul General of Thailand in Kunming, Yunnan also appreciated the visit saying that it allowed us to “understand the real situation of the Lancang River and the areas upstream of China with our own eyes and get information. with our own ears and able to learn with an open mind. “
Constant investment in the environment
The envoys were all impressed with the “good practices of the promoters of the dam to take care of the environment” after visiting a bustling resettlement village, fish breeding station and animal rescue station, as well as the Nuozhadu hydroelectric power station, which were all part of the local government effort to maintain biological diversity.
During the visit, the Global Times learned that China has taken into account the impact on the downstream ecosystem of the construction of hydropower plants on the Lancang River and adjusted plans for some projects to ensure that the fish migration is not affected.
Construction of hydropower projects included multi-layered water intake measures and fish proliferation and discharge stations to protect endemic fish species.
“We normally adjust the water temperatures suitable for fish breeding and closely monitor fish migration according to national standards,” Zhou Jian, vice president of Huaneng Lancang River Hydropower Inc, told the Global Times on visit.
Local governments and entrepreneurs not only took into account the pressure of water demand on the ecology of the river, but also invested large sums of money to optimize the technical design and build breeding stations. and fish release to minimize negative environmental impact downstream.
The contractor transfers the valuable plants submerged in the dam reservoir area to a separate botanical garden for conservation. They also keep the less fertile species in the reservoir through artificial propagation, Zhou said.
Scientists maintain an endangered kind of wild rice in the rare botanical garden of the Nuozhadu hydroelectric power station. Photo: cnsphoto
Challenges demand transparent collaboration
Water has become one of the essential issues for the sustainable development of the six riparian countries. It is essentially the contradiction between water governance and the increasing pressure to achieve sustainable development with water resources, Zhong said, stressing the need and common ground for the Mekong countries to come closer. for further development.
The situation has led the six riparian countries to develop stronger practical cooperation in the field of water resources through a more transparent and open channel, the envoys said.
Since 2003, the Chinese Ministry of Water Resources has provided hydrological data on the Lancang River during the flood season as well as information on typhoons, drought and other anomalous information and flash floods to Thailand, Laos, Cambodia and Vietnam for 18 consecutive years. This has helped prevent and reduce disaster losses in the Mekong countries.
The envoys also applauded the fact that China has started sharing hydrological data throughout the year with the Mekong River countries since November 2020, and its efforts to launch an information-sharing platform for exchanges. more efficient.