Mekong River at record low flow
Water levels in the northern Mekong River are at record-low levels, posing a threat to water supply, navigation and irrigation along a stretch of water that is home to millions, a regional official said.
Northern Thailand, northern Laos and southern China have all been affected, Jeremy Bird, chief executive officer of the Mekong River Commission (MRC) secretariat, told AFP.
"The flows are much lower than we've got records on in the last 20 years," said Bird, whose inter-governmental body deals with all Mekong River-related activities including fisheries, agriculture and flood management.
More than 60 million people in the lower Mekong basin depend on the river system for food, transport and economic activity, the MRC says, adding that it is home to the world's most valuable inland fishery.
Bird said 21 cargo boats have reportedly been stranded because of the shallow river water in southern China.
A regional drought has caused the water to drop, the MRC said.
"Severe drought will have an impact on agriculture, food security, access to clean water and river transport and will affect the economic development of people already facing serious poverty," it said in a statement.
"The northern provinces are amongst the poorest areas for both Lao PDR and Thailand."
River tour operators have stopped offering services on the river between the Laotian tourist centre of Luang Prabang and Huay Xai on the Thai border, the MRC said.