CHIANG RAI — A state engineer Thursday dismissed panicked reports in the media and online that the Mekong River is about to flood.
Water released upriver from Thailand by a Chinese dam has caused levels to rise downriver between Thailand and Laos, but despite local news and social media reports of inundated vegetable plots, there’s no reason to worry, according to the irrigation department engineer.
“Growing vegetables by the sediment-rich riverside might look like a good idea to farmers, but if you ask an engineer, that’s gonna flood,” Methus Yeunprapan said.
Many local news outlets published a graphic showing a sudden surge in water levels in Chiang Rai province along with headlines saying they were are at a “historic high.”
It was published by the Mekong River Commission, the intergovernmental agency set up to manage river issues for Thailand, Laos, Cambodia and Vietnam. China is not a member.
Methus said that while levels are high for the dry season, they are the result of managed releases at China’s Jinghong Dam and others that needed to release water to make stretches of the river there navigable during the dry season.
“Water might wash over low zones of the river, but it won’t overflow the riverbanks,” Methus said.
Amnat Charoen farmer Weera Wongsuwan said the water rose 3 meters along a riverside tourist area there, damaging eateries by the water.
“So I guess the Mekong River isn’t a public river that everyone living in the river basin has control of? Is this just paying lip service to equality????” wrote Facebook user Mixmixka Naree, who claimed some crops in Ubon Ratchathani province had been damaged by overflowing water.
Concerns about the viability of life along the Mekong are warranted. China’s construction of dams has expanded beyond the river in its territory into Southeast Asia, where tens of millions rely on it for fishing, transport and irrigation.