Reporting in near-real time, the Mekong Dam Monitor will be a boon to the improvement of trans-boundary river governance, increasing the ability of downstream stakeholders to negotiate for an equitable share of water. Importantly, the monitor also provides a valuable early warning signal for possible flood and drought in the lower Mekong basin.
According to the Stimson Center, the platform allows observation of and information on a number of important sites and conditions as follows.
River and Dam Water Levels: An interactive map combines data collected at dozens of locations across the river basin by both physical and new “virtual” gauges to provide a single, easily scaled window into water availability, river levels, and dam operations; the monitor’s innovative virtual gauges combine cloud-piercing satellite imagery, GIS and validation modelling to estimate dam and river levels in places where it is not currently measured or the data is kept private by authorities.
The monitor will measure the status of China’s Lancang Dam Cascade, for the first time, allowing users to see current and historical states of China’s 11-dam cascade, and how water storage and release across the dams is coordinated for power generation. It will also depict how much water should be in the Mekong and climate anomaly comparisons.
At a virtual event held this week, multiple experts spoke about the importance of the data and what it means for the region.
Stimson Center Southeast Asia Programme Director and project co-lead Brian Eyler said: “The Mekong Dam Monitor platform lifts the veil on dam operations and water levels on the Mekong in a way that’s never been possible before. With innovations like the ‘virtual gauge’ and by pulling various data into one place, we are empowering a wide range of stakeholders across the region. In turn, we hope that transparency will increase accountability, empower countries most affected by dams and, ultimately, help protect both the river and the people who depend on it.”
Cambodia was represented at the meeting by Pou Sothirak, executive director of the Cambodian Centre for Cooperation and Peace, who spoke on how much the Kingdom relies on the Mekong and the impact of droughts.
“Here in Cambodia hundreds of thousands of people rely on the Mekong River. It has been an incredibly challenging year because of droughts. The river reached a record low for the second year running, causing fishing hauls to drop by more than 70 percent and fish exports to drop by 84 percent. This is putting an enormous strain on the lives of Cambodian people, especially the most vulnerable. We are happy that this data is now out in the open and things are more transparent,” Pou said.