Laos opens dams to provide water for drought-stricken South

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The Lao government has authorised four of the country's largest dams to release water to ease the drought conditions affecting the southern part of Laos and other Asean countries, according to Vientiane Times.

The dams are on the Nam Ou, Nam Khan, Nam Ngum and Nam Theun rivers. They began releasing about 1,136 cubic metres of water per second on March 21.

The water is expected to reach Pakxe district, Champassak province, on April 2 and would be sufficient for use until the beginning of June, according to the Ministry of Energy and Mines. The water will be channelled through the Mekong to reach Cambodia and Vietnam as well.

Thai dams are also releasing 220 cubic metres of water per second and a dam in China is pumping out 2,250 cubic metres per second.

Minister of Energy and Mines Dr Khammany Inthirath said “Asean countries are facing the worst drought conditions in about 20 years, affecting Vietnam, Thailand, Cambodia, Malaysia and Indonesia.”

Dr Khammany said Laos was one of many Asean countries to have been affected by water shortages and, although the situation was not extreme, people should use water sparingly.

Elsewhere, Vietnam has been affected by unusually dry conditions and a shortage of rainfall since the end of 2015. This is attributed to the El Niño weather phenomenon, and the drought in the country’s coastal areas has been compounded by saltwater intrusion.

The current conditions have resulted in significant damage to crops, and threatened livelihoods and access to water by local populations.

The most affected regions are in the southern central and central highlands of Vietnam, as well as the Mekong Delta.