Podcasts | Environment | Southeast Asia

A Perfect Dry: The Mekong River Enters its Fourth Year of Drought

A conversation with Brian Eyler of the Stimson Center.

A Perfect Dry: The Mekong River Enters its Fourth Year of Drought
Credit: Photo Supplied

The lower Mekong River is entering its fourth year of drought with poor rainfall, climate change, and hydropower dams producing the worst conditions along Southeast Asia’s largest waterway in more than 60 years, threatening the livelihoods of up to 70 million people.

As a result, the Mekong River Commission (MRC) is urging the six Mekong countries to urgently address “regional low flows, water fluctuations, and drought.”

In its latest report, “Mekong Low Flow and Drought Conditions in 2019–2021,” the MRC found that since 2015 the hydrological regime had changed, with more water flow in the dry season flow and reduced wet season flow caused by increased storage reservoirs.

Brian Eyler directs the Southeast Asia Program and the Energy, Water, and Sustainability Program at the Stimson Center in Washington, D.C. He is an expert on transboundary issues in the Mekong region and specializes in China’s economic cooperation with Southeast Asia.

He spent more than 15 years living and working in China and over the last two decades has conducted extensive research with stakeholders in the Mekong region.

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Eyler spoke with The Diplomat’s Luke Hunt about the drought, climate change, and massive dam construction which combined are causing unprecedented damage to the river system.

Eyler also serves as chair of the Stimson Center’s War Legacy Working Group. His first book, “Last Days of the Mighty Mekong,” was published by Zed Books in 2019. He also holds an MA from the University of California, San Diego and a BA from Bucknell University.

Luke Hunt can be followed on Patreon and Twitter.