As the Mekong runs to its lowest level in three decades, boat traffic has had to be suspended and, in common with other waterways in the region, people wonder how they are going to survive. There will be the economic cost of reduced trade (there is an estimate of 100 million baht so far) and also the threat to the approximately 50 million people who rely on the Mekong in one way or another.
There will also, it seems inevitable, be increased tension with China, since it is widely believed that it is damming of the Lancang (which is the term used in China for the Mekong – it means something like the ‘turbulent river’) upstream which is the principal contributory factor to low levels.
Water wars or at least skirmishes seem likely this year in many parts of the GMSR.
Is this the future? The River Mekong running dry for much of the year, putting at risk the lives and livelihoods of the 50 million people who rely upon the river downstream –there are some fairly grim photos of this available now. One immediate effect of this has been the stranding of a number of cargo boats which have been going up and down the river to China as part of the Free Trade Agreement signed with that country – so, fruit is going off and other goods losing their value. Presumably the effects on farmers and so on will work their way down the river course. The cause at the moment is a drought – weather patterns are becoming more unpredictable and extreme – as well as the damming of the river in China and the blasting of rapids to permit the passage of larger vessels.