China has denied that its dams are reducing water levels in the Mekong River and has blamed problems along the river’s shores on unusually dry weather. But Beijing has offered to share more data with its neighbors. Deputy Foreign Minister Song Tao was speaking to a gathering of leaders from Thailand, Cambodia, Vietnam and Laos who had met in the Thai coastal town of Hua Hin to discuss management of Southeast Asia’s longest waterway. The Mekong originates in the Tibetan plateau and flows 4,800 kilometers through the rice-rich areas of Myanmar, Thailand, Laos and Cambodia before emptying into the South China Sea off Vietnam. Some 65 million people depend on the river. Song argued that southwestern China was suffering its worst drought in decades, which, according to Beijing, has left some 18 million people and 11 million animals with insufficient drinking water. He added that China had responded to the concerns of downstream countries, even at the expense of hydropower projects. However, environmental organizations in the region accuse Beijing of a lack of transparency in water-management policies. (Radio Netherlands)

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