China Is Releasing Dam Waters to Ease Pain of El Niño Drought - Atlas Obscura
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China Is Releasing Dam Waters to Ease Pain of El Niño Drought

It may not be helping.

(Photo: Marufish/CC BY-SA 2.0)

China is releasing waters from dams in an attempt to ease the pain from a long-lasting drought that has affected areas up and down the Mekong River, which stretches from western China to Vietnam. 

But at the famous Mekong Delta, where the river meets the sea in south Vietnam, the extra waters don’t seem to be helping much, as the area contends with its worst drought in 90 years

The drought, which experts say is partially brought on by El Niño, could affect commodity prices, from sugar, to coffee, to shrimp, Reuters reports, as southeast Asia remains a huge exporter of goods. 

Further upriver, China has built dozens of dams to power their ever-expanding industrial economy. And, while, Reuters reports, Vietnam has lauded China’s gesture in releasing some waters from the dams, farmers on the delta say they haven’t seen much impact. 

“It’s been too hot toward the bottom of the pond and shrimp can’t stand it,” To Viet Tien, a shrimp farmer, told Reuters. ”On this (salty) soil, it’s impossible to switch to another crop.”

Whatever new waters do come will just be a temporary reprieve, since environmentalists and residents say that the dams are destroying the Mekong Delta, by interrupting water flows and blocking alluvial soils from making it downstream. 

“A shortage of fertile soil is the unavoidable death,” one expert told Reuters.