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Flood and drought remain key challenges for Mekong region: Report

Extreme low flows and extensive flooding of different communities along the Mekong River last year and an increasing number of droughts that have occurred in many parts of the region in recent years are among the signs that the Mekong region is facing increasing risks from extreme weather events and developments, says a new report by the Mekong River Commission (MRC).

Boosting regional efforts to provide faster and more accurate forecasting on flood and drought and expanding a network of hydro-meteorological monitoring to collect data in the basin are critical in addressing these issues, according to the MRC’s 2019 Annual Report released on June 16.

“Flood and drought have hit our region hard lately and require stronger regional collaboration,” says MRC Secretariat’s Chief Executive Offer An Pich Hatda.

“The countries along the Lower Mekong River need to step up their collective efforts in addressing the problems facing them now and in the future, for example by ensuring transparency, quality and timeliness in water data sharing.”

“Modernising the existing data systems using advanced technology will be necessary,” he adds.

The 100-page report, which takes stock of key progress and achievements the MRC scored last year, says “severe droughts in the Lower Mekong Basin (LMB) have caused substantial economic losses due to damages of agricultural crops, negative impacts on the environment, and adverse effects on people’s livelihoods.”

The drought in 2016, for example, brought serious economic losses to Thailand, estimated at 1.7 billion USD, according to the MRC, which further notes that the LMB is likely to see more severe droughts in the next 30 to 90 years.

Rapid water level fluctuations due to hydropower operations and flash floods due to climate change will also be future challenges.

One of the actions that the MRC took last year to respond to the problems, the report says, was developing a Drought Management Strategy for 2020-2025, as a strategic approach by the Member Countries to address the increasing risk of drought across the region.

The strategy focuses on five priority areas assessed as “poorly functioning” and requiring “immediate attention” to address droughts. They include drought indicator monitoring, drought forecasting and early warning, capacity building in drought assessment and planning, mitigation measures, and information sharing systems./.