In the lower basin, flood control and water management offer major opportunities to increase economic productivity. Farmers practicing shifting cultivation on the uplands and the rice growers on the rain-fed lowlands are able, under normal conditions, to grow only one crop a year, taking advantage of wet-season precipitation. Half of the cultivated land is dependent upon some form of inundation by flood waters. Control of water, however, makes it possible to store water during the dry season and to use this water to produce a second or third crop. In addition, irrigation combined with flood control has improved the cultivable land by reducing the losses and delays caused by floodwaters pouring over the river’s banks. Where storage facilities and the degree of downward slope are favourable, small-scale hydroelectric power facilities have been developed.

Mekong River Cruise

Mekong River Economy

Much of this development work has been undertaken under the auspices of the Interim Committee for Coordination of Investigations of the Lower Mekong Basin (Mekong Committee), organized in 1957 by Cambodia, Laos, Thailand, and South Vietnam. (After 1975 Vietnam replaced South Vietnam on the committee, and Cambodia ceased to participate, although Cambodia has resumed membership since 1991.) The committee has sponsored a series of preinvestment and general scientific investigations and has undertaken construction of a number of water projects. These projects include the multipurpose dam near Nam Phong in northeastern Thailand and the hydroelectric dam at Nam Ngum in Laos. The countries of the commission have continued to cooperate despite the political stresses produced by the war in Vietnam and its aftermath and have enlisted the assistance of other countries and international organizations.