China Agrees to Share Information on Mekong Water Levels

China agreed Monday to share daily reports on the depth of the Me­kong river with countries that lie downstream, a decision that could give Cambodian authorities cru­cial warning of coming floods.

The reports from the Yunjing­hong and Man’an stations in Yun­nan province will provide vital in­for­mation to a network of 15 monitoring stations along the Lower Me­kong. The stations are maintained by the Mekong River Com­mission to monitor the riv­er’s seasonal fluctuations.

“It will be more important for Cambodia to get the data from China,” said Y Kihoeurng, secretary of state for Water Resources and Meteorology. “In the past we got data only from Laos, and it is very close to Cambodia.”

He said the new data will give Cambodian authorities more time to broadcast rapid changes in the river’s depth.

The agreement comes as the MRC attempts to gain more co­op­eration from China on river issues. China and Burma are the only countries along the Mekong that are not members of the MRC consortium.

“This is very significant indeed,” said Joern Kristensen, chief executive of the MRC. “All par­ties agree that this is a very important step in the direction of ar­riving at closer cooperation on other issues.”

Countries in the Lower Me­kong region have watched with concern as China proceeds with plans to construct a series of hydro­electric dams on the upper reaches of the river.

The dams are meant to control the flooding that creates havoc downstream, but could also have wide-ranging affects on the river’s ecology and numerous fisheries, environmentalists warn.

More than 300 Cambodians died during massive flooding in 2000, and smaller floods last year still washed away bridges and villages. The dams could minimize the damage while not eliminating the fluctuations that preserve im­portant fisheries, said Dr Dong Zheren, director general of Chi­na’s Department of Interna­tional Cooperation, Science and Tech­nology. He was in Phnom Penh Monday to sign the MRC agree­ment on behalf of the Chi­nese government. He said his government would review any technical data sent from the MRC concerning the Tonle Sap river and the possible effects that dams up­stream could have on fisheries.

The MRC will provide assistance to the Ministry of Water Re­sources of the People’s Republic of China to upgrade equipment at the river stations.

The MRC is an intergovernmental body created by Cambodia, Thailand, Laos and Vietnam to manage the lower Me­kong Basin.



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