The Mekong River Commission (MRC) has warned that with the late onset and early departure of the monsoon, countries in the lower Mekong region can anticipate extreme drought through January 2020. The situation is further aggravated by high temperatures attributed to an El Nino event.
This year, the monsoon started about two weeks late and completed about three weeks early leading to warnings for drinking water as well as crop production. Thailand and Cambodia would probably be the hardest hit.
“This year’s prolonged dry weather condition can possibly adversely impact agricultural and crop production. The issue of water shortages for consumption could also come into play as the drought persists,” said Dr. Lam Hung Son, the MRC Secretariat’s Head of Regional Flood and Drought Management Center, who led the analysis.
The information disclosed a three month time frame and compared it to historical data using both precipitation as well as degree of dryness of the top soil layer in the four member states: Laos, Cambodia, Thailand and Vietnam.
The data suggests that the lower Mekong basin would face both a meteorological drought (when dry weather patterns dominate over period of time) and an agricultural drought, a situation when crops would become affected.
The drought started in the middle of November and is expected to last through January 2020, with most parts of the basin forecasted to have little to no rain.
The north and northeastern regions of Thailand would be affected the most. Although there is no indication of drought in Viet Nam’s Mekong Delta, saltwater intrusion may do some harm to agriculture. Already the 2019 drought has affected Mekong water levels which are at their lowest point in 60 years.
Slightly wetter weather is predicted from the middle of January.
The MRC is expected to approve a drought management strategy next week as part of its ongoing effort to address mitigation measures and to assure information sharing.
Subsequently, the MRC and Lancang Water Resources Cooperation Center will also prepare a joint study to recommend actions in terms of enhanced data and information sharing, better communication and coordinated reservoir operations