The Stream, August 11, 2020: Report Explains Low Water Levels in Mekong River

The Global Rundown

The Mekong River Commission releases a report on the river’s record low water levels. Flooding displaces hundreds in Sudan. Hundreds of homes are inundated or destroyed in North Korea. South Africa pleads Sudan and Egypt to remain in talks with Ethiopia over the Grand Ethiopian Renaissance Dam. The Washington Supreme Court makes a ruling on water flow in the Spokane River.

“We think this is a sad day for the Spokane River and the people of Spokane.” Trish Rolfe, the executive director for the Center for Environmental Policy and Law. A state law that put a minimum on the amount of water that must flow in the Spokane River was valid, the Washington Supreme Court ruled on Thursday. In the unanimous decision, Justice Barbara Madsen said that the state Department of Ecology had the authority to set the minimum and that the agency did its due diligence in coming to its 850 cubic feet (24 cubic meters) per second figure. The Center for Environmental Policy and other environmental groups sued the Department of Ecology, arguing the figure was too low to properly maintain the river and its species. Martinsville Bulletin

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By The Numbers

100+ The number of families that have been displaced by flooding in Sudan and are now at risk of being exposed to water-borne diseases like malaria and cholera. At least five people have died because of the flooding. Al Jazeera

730 The number of homes that have experienced severe flooding after inundation in North Korea. North Korean leader Kim Jong Un has ordered officials to provide food and shelter for the hundreds of families who lost their homes in flood. While no casualties were reported, the KNCA state news agency reported that rice-growing land was flooded, fueling growing concerns about damage to North Korean crops and potential food supply impact. Reuters

Science, Studies, and Reports

A new report by the Mekong River Commission attributed water levels in the river, which have hit record lows for the second consecutive year, to two years of reduced rainfall and the operations of 13 Mekong hydropower dams as well as dams on Mekong tributaries in Laos. The report said the low flow could have severe impacts on communities in countries like Cambodia, Laos, Thailand and Vietnam where the river flows through due to loss of fisheries and irrigation potential. The report also stated Mekong countries should ask China to discharge water from dams and reservoirs if current conditions persist. Reuters

In context:

On the Radar

South Africa, who is currently mediating negotiations around the Grand Ethiopian Renaissance Dam (GERP), urged Sudan and Egypt to remain in talks with Ethiopia on Thursday. Egypt called for a halt in the talks while Sudan threatened to withdraw after a meeting meant to arrange how the dam would be filled and operated. GERP has been a source of tension for years between the three countries. While Sudan and Egypt feel the dam would deplete their water supply from the Nile River, Ethiopia feels the dam is necessary to bring electricity to millions of its residents. Al Jazeera

In context: HotSpots H2O: Tensions Rise in Horn of Africa as Ethiopia Fills Controversial Dam

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