China blamed for holding back important Mekong info

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China is making things difficult for downstream Mekong riparian countries by not providing accurate and timely information about its interventions in the Mekong River, experts said at a conference Saturday.

The riparian countries, including Vietnam, have asked China to provide better updates on its interventions, officials said at the conference that preceded the first Mekong River Commission (MRC) summit.

Despite China's participation at the two-day conference on Water Resource Management, Chaiyuth Sukhsri, lecturer at the Chulalongkorn University in Thailand, said the information that China has provided was not adequate and exact.

Chaiyuth, also an engineer, said China never gave all the information at once but only gave it "drop by drop" to see how other countries would react and based its next moves on the reactions.

He suggested that stations be built along the China border to measure water levels and learn how China is operating its dams at particular points of time, for instance to know when the dams are discharging or holding water.

Chaiyuth said other countries cannot wait for China to provide the information but have to get it indirectly.

China which has several dams upstream of the river told the two-day conference in Hua Hin, Thailand that the dams' impacts on downstream areas have been reduced and some dams would even bring benefits.

But Le Duc Trung, office chief of MRC Vietnam, said "any operation in the river will leave an impact. Power dams that hold water will cause certain effects."

When China began operating the Man Loan dam in 2003, Laos suffered draught in several areas.

"[The dams] will always cause impacts, the issue is how and how much," Trung said.

Chaiyuth also told Thanh Nien on the sidelines of the conference that any construction on a river will affect its flow.

And MRC itself has only managed to give weak evidence about the damage Chinese dams are causing to the river, he said.

China has agreed to have officials from four MRC member nations Thailand, Laos, Cambodia and Vietnam visit the dams it has built upstream.

The first MRC summit starting Sunday in Thailand comes at a time Mekong River countries are asking China to take responsibility for the draught and floods that its upstream dams have caused.

The two-day summit marks 15 years of the Agreement on Cooperation for Sustainable Development of the Mekong River Basin that was signed by Laos, Cambodia, Thailand and Vietnam, forming the MRC.

The summit is expected to be organized every four years. Vietnam will host the next one in 2014.

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