Mekong nations face growing threat to food security amid claims China’s dams exacerbate effects of drought

Drought, erratic water levels along 4,300km river are disrupting rice yields and fish catches, raising costs for farmers. Beijing rejects claim Chinese dams behind drought hitting countries downstream.

Fishermen in northeast Thailand say they have seen catches in the Mekong River plunge, while some farmers in Vietnam and Cambodia are leaving for jobs in cities as harvests of rice and other crops shrink.

The common thread driving these events is erratic water levels in Asia’s third longest waterway.

Water flows along the 4,300km (2,700 mile) Mekong shift naturally between monsoon and dry seasons, but non-governmental groups say the 11 hydroelectric dams on China’s portion of the river – five of them starting operation since 2017 – have disrupted seasonal rhythms. This threatens food security for the more than 60 million people in the Lower Mekong that rely on the river for a livelihood, they say.

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