Cooperate for water

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The severe drought in the Mekong River basin in Southeast Asia should be tackled through strengthened regional cooperation rather than by accusing China of wrongdoing.

It is true that the drought, triggered by the lowest water level in the Mekong in 20 years, is threatening Thailand, Laos, Vietnam and Cambodia. But it is also true that China's southwest region, adjacent to the sub-Mekong region, is also in the grip of a drought, in fact, the worst drought in a century.

The lifeline for more than 60 million people living in its basin, the Mekong is the source of their drinking water, irrigation, fishing and transport. And data show tributaries in Southeast Asian countries contribute to greater volume of the river's water.

But some people have alleged that dams on China's Lancang River, the upper reaches of the Mekong, are responsible for the historic low water level downstream.

China does tap the water of the Lancang but it has always given priority to environmental conservation while doing so. It is, therefore, preposterous to hold China responsible for the drought in the sub-Mekong region.

Natural disasters should make countries work together in search for solutions instead of finger-pointing. Regional cooperation is crucial for an effective response to a common threat like this year's drought in the Lancang-Mekong basin.

China will attend a four-nation meeting in Thailand next month to discuss how to divide the waters of the Mekong. Hopefully, the meeting will serve as a platform for building trust among countries that share common waterways, which is a precondition for initiatives to redress regional grievances.

If representatives turn it into a finger-pointing exercise, they will only delay such efforts and make the people living along the Mekong suffer even longer.

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