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GDO Analytical Report: Drought in mainland Southeast Asia – August 2020

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Executive summary

● A long-lasting drought is affecting parts of South East Asia (Vietnam, Laos, Thailand,
Myanmar, Cambodia) because of a combination of a precipitation deficit inherited from 2019 and a poor start of the monsoon 2020, with regional variations.

● Rivers within the Mekong basin and beyond recorded extreme lows in the past few weeks, while reservoirs are lower than expected for this time of the year. The drought is affecting primarily rice crops. Fisheries, power production and water supply in general may be affected too. Indeed the Mekong River Commission advised all member countries to implement their drought plans.

● The outlook until October is very wet, with well above average rainfall in the area. The abundant precipitation should compensate for the poor first half of the season, but might not be enough for the longer-term deficit.

This document builds on the previous report published in March 20201 and July 20192 , please refer to them for more insight on the drought and earlier reported impacts.

Risk of drought impact for agriculture (RDrI-Agri)

The GDO indicator RDrI-Agri shows the risk of having impacts from a drought, by taking into account the exposure and socio-economic vulnerability of the area, with particular focus on the agricultural impacts.

With a marked rainfall seasonality, a significant amount of annual water supply depends on a few months. The main rivers play a fundamental role in the economy and lives of millions, providing water for agriculture, consumption, fisheries and energy production. Agriculture is the main source of income and subsistence for the majority of the population, and rice is the main staple crop in the peninsula.

Compared to the situation of March 2020, the drought eased over central Thailand and intensified again over the Mekong basin (Lao and Vietnam primarily), northern Vietnam and Myanmar. The RDrI-Agri indicator shows a wide region under moderate risk (Figure 1), with southern and coastal Myanmar as the most exposed region, as well as central and central and north of Lao and Vietnam.