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Chinese dams under U.S. scrutiny in Mekong rivalry

Christian Fernsby |
A U.S. funded project using satellites to track and publish water levels at Chinese dams on the Mekong river was announced on Monday, adding to the superpowers’ rivalry in Southeast Asia.

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The 4,350 kilometer waterway known as the Lancang in China and flowing south through Myanmar, Laos, Thailand, Cambodia and Vietnam has become a focus of competition.

Beijing has dismissed U.S. research saying Chinese dams have retained water to the detriment of downstream nations, where people depend on the river for fishing and farming.

The Mekong Dam Monitor, part-funded by the State Department, uses data from cloud-piercing satellites to track levels of dams in China and other countries.

The information will be open for everyone in near real-time from Tuesday.

A separate indicator of “surface wetness” is to show which parts of the region are wetter or drier than usual: a guide to how much natural flows are being affected by the dams.

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