Dams 'won't harm' Mekong River nations

PUBLISHED : Tuesday, 08 March, 2005, 12:00am
UPDATED : Tuesday, 08 March, 2005, 12:00am

Plans to develop the Mekong River will not harm nations downstream, a senior official has said.

Suo Lisheng , deputy minister of water resources, said China had established a framework for consulting southwestern neighbours to protect the river's ecology.

The 4,800km river originates in the Tibetan Plateau and flows through Yunnan province , Myanmar, Thailand, Cambodia, Laos and Vietnam.

'Through this framework, all parties can discuss their interests regarding the Mekong River,' Mr Suo said on the sidelines of yesterday's CPPCC session. 'We are committed to not damaging the interests of the other countries.'

Beijing plans to build eight dams on the river, known in Chinese as the Lancang, with two already built. International environmental groups and some nations further down the river have labelled the scheme destructive, saying the river's ecology had been damaged.

Mr Suo said China must develop the massive river because of water and energy shortages, but he pledged it would be done responsibly.

'We will pay close attention to all the implications of the development plans,' he said, noting that China would provide affected nations with timely information on changes to the river's flow.

Mr Suo said the mainland's water shortage was grave and that it must step up its conservation efforts.

He said China's GDP output per cubic metre of water was only one fifth of the world's average.

In the agricultural sector, only 50 per cent of the flow released from reservoirs actually reached its end use, with losses incurred due to seepage, leakage of water pipes and pollution.