Drought is Unlikely to Ease Its Grip on Laos Anytime Soon

2016-05-05
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The view of the Mekong River in March from Vientane shows the Don Chanh sand island.
The view of the Mekong River in March from Vientane shows the Don Chanh sand island.
RFA

The drought gripping Laos and other Southeast Asian countries will continue unabated for at least a few more weeks as 100-degree temperatures push the rainy season back even further, Laos top weather forecaster told RFA.

“Over the next two weeks, the temperature will be from, 38-40 degrees Celsius (100-104 degrees Fahrenheit), and it will influence provinces from central to southern Laos,” Bouteum Sisouphanthong, the chief forecaster for the Ministry of of Natural Resources and the Environment told RFA’s Laos Service

“Normally, it starts raining in the middle of May, but it is predicted that the rain will come in the late May,” he added.

The current El Nino cycle of extreme weather conditions caused by warmer than average sea temperatures in the Pacific has been a concern for governments and agencies since December 2014 when the current ocean warming began.

With little hope that the El Nino cycle will break, Laos is expected to endure even more devastating weather.

“The discharge of rain throughout the country is less than usual when compared with previous years, and over the next three months there will be still less rain,” Bouteum Sisouphanthong explained. “The central and southern provinces still face droughts.”

Phouan, farmer in Pasong district, Champassak province told RFA that he worries for next year’s rice crop.

“Next year, the rice will run out because this year people in the village cannot grow it according the production seasons now that there is so little rain,” he told RFA.

Low water mark

While the drought’s most immediate impact is on people in the countryside, it is seeping into the cities where people are seeking shelter from the brutal heat.

“In Vientiane is very hot we cannot go out so we just stay home during the daytime,” a resident of the city told RFA. “Water in Mekong River is shallower than in previous years and many sand islands are emerging in the middle of the river.”

There is also growing concern about water shortages a residents in Vientiane are going out at night to get water.

“People in the village face shortage of water because water from the public water supplies will come at the middle of the night, so they must collect water in the tank and containers at night,” he said.

El Nino is hitting Laos with a double whammy. While it is helping prolong the drought, it is also gets part of the blame for the violent storms that have lashed Laos.

“Many provinces in Laos so far have been affected by tropical storms including lightening and hailstorm. That causes damages of infrastructures including lamp posts, schools and houses in Xayabouri and Vientiane provinces and Vientiane capital, Khammuane province,” Bouteum Sisouphanthong explained.

“Until end of May, it is predicted that tropical storms will occur and the provinces at risks of storms are Luang Namtha, Oudomxay, Bokeo, Luang Prabang, Xayabouri provinces and also central and southern provinces,” he said.

Storms have already pummeled Laos central and southern provinces as the Khongxedon district in the Saravan province was hit by storm, causing damage to many houses in the region, a district resident told RFA.

Also on April 3, a storm hit Xaybouathong district in Khammuane province damaging houses and causing power outages.

While late April storms caused power outages in the Saysettha and Saythany districts in Vientiane, and houses and schools were damaged in the Lah district in Oudomxay province.

Reported by RFA's Lao Service.Translated by Ounkeo Souksavanh. Written in English by Brooks Boliek.

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