To gauge the impact, Radio Free Asia and BenarNews spoke to villagers, farmers and fishermen on the banks of the river along the length of Laos, which makes a key central section of the river along its border with Thailand. We found them struggling to cope with the alarming drop in the water level and fearing that the situation will only worsen in the coming months.
Through northern Laos and Thailand, the Mekong is typically more narrow and faster-flowing than it is further south. But communities on either side of the border have felt the impact of drought. They’ve also experienced an abrupt variation when water has been held back inside China, as happened in early January when for several days, the Jinghong Dam reduced by one half the amount of water it releases into the Mekong. At Luang Prabang in northern Laos, where the Mekong winds through steep-sided mountains that shadow the former royal capital of the country, the drought has been so severe that the mighty river has shrunk and land features in the river bed are much more prominent than before.