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Mekong Eye News Digest: 15 June 2016

A weekly update of news, commentary and resources on Mekong development projects, investment, EIAs and other development issues. We include a balanced and representative range of news and views from local, regional and global sources. The Digest reaches around 3500 key development professionals, government officials, business leaders and journalists.

By The Mekong Eye

Mekong Region, June 21, 2016

MEKONG NEWS DIGEST: Mekong Partnership for the Environment (MPE)

To June 15, 2016

Curated by The Mekong Eye. A weekly update of news, commentary and resources on Mekong development projects, investment, EIAs and other development issues. We include a balanced and representative range of news and views from local, regional and global sources. The Digest reaches over 3700 key development professionals, government officials, business leaders and journalists.

SUBMIT subscription requests, press releases, articles, resources for consideration to: tkunklangdone@pactworld.org

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MEKONG DEVELOPMENT DEVELOPMENT CONTEXT GLOBAL CONTEXT LOCAL LANGUAGE NEWS  RESOURCES & PRESS RELEASES

 

MEKONG DEVELOPMENT

No authority to prevent new Mekong River projects: MRC –The Nation

The Mekong Commission (MRC) does not have the authority to stop projects even if they have transboundary effects, delegates to the fourth Green Mekong Forum said on Monday, while the Thai Irrigation Department presented a water diversion project to fight poverty. The recent forum in Bangkok about latest developments in infrastructure and water resource management in the Mekong Region was disclosed that major development projects are necessary for solving poverty, even though it was admitted that the transborder impacts are real.

 

Strong need expected for distributed power generation –The Nation

The inadequacy of transmission and distribution (T&D) infrastructure and the topographical challenges have created strong demand for distributed power generation (DPG) in Southeast Asia. According to a new analysis, the overall installed capacity of the DPG market was estimated at 20,450 megawatts last year and is forecast to reach 34,747MW by 2020. The key types of power plants analysed are those fuelled by biomass or waste, solar photovoltaic (PV) plants, those based on internal combustion engines (fuelled by diesel, heavy fuel oil or HFO, gas, or combinations), and temporary rental power plants.

 

The water conflict on the Mekong –The Mekong Eye

Located at the end of the Mekong River basin, the Mekong Delta in Vietnam is currently experiencing the most severe drought and salinity intrusion in 100 years.  According to experts, the principal reason is development activities in Greater Mekong Subregion (GMS) countries related to the use of the Mekong River’s water resources, including the operation and construction of mega-dams along the river as well as water diversion for agricultural purposes. (Contributed by a Mekong Matters journalist)

 

Officials in Greater Mekong Sub-region call for enhanced cooperation –China.org

Participants to the GMS (Greater Mekong Sub-region) Economic Corridor 2016 Governors Forum on Friday called for enhanced cooperation in face of economic, social and environmental challenges. The GMS Economic Cooperation Program, launched in 1992 by six countries along the Mekong River — Cambodia, China, Laos, Myanmar, Thailand and Vietnam, is aimed at pooling efforts to improve regional infrastructure, and to promote trade, investment and economic growth.

 

CAMBODIA

Don Sahong vs Dolphins: How the Dam Is Affecting Local Residents –Khmer Times

Residents of Preah Rumkel commune in Thala Barivat district, Stung Treng province, have been demanding authorities suspend construction of the dam to no avail. The project has taken on a new life for local residents now that the booms of dynamite blasts and the sounds of rocks smashing under the weight of machines have become an ever-present part of their daily lives. But what residents of Preah Rumkel commune are most worried about is the loss of the dolphins that are native to Anlong Chher Teal, which attract tourists and provides incomes for people in the area.

 

Harnessing the Sesan River: An In-depth look at the Lower Sesan 2 Dam –Thai PBS via Mekong Eye (Print and video series)

The Cambodian Government is constructing a 75 meter-high dam on the Sesan River in Stung Treng Province. The Lower Sesan 2 Dam will cause the inundation of 30,000ha of valuable agricultural and forest land force the resettlement of approximately 5,000 people. With the project now 40 percent complete, journalists from Thailand’s Public Broadcasting Service (Thai PBS), undertook an in-depth investigation into what’s happening on the ground, and how communities are responding.

 

Angkor Gold Corp. Signs US$3 Million Joint Exploration Agreement with JOGMEC on Oyadao South License –Junior Mining Network

ANGKOR GOLD CORP announced that it has entered into a Joint Exploration Agreement with Japan Oil, Gas and Metals National Corporation (“JOGMEC”) to explore ANGKOR’s 100% owned Oyadao South license. In addition, ANGKOR’s management has been working in concert with MESCO Gold to finalize the issuance of MESCO’s mining license for the Phum Syarung mine, a milestone for the entire mineral sector of Cambodia

 

LAO PDR

Kunming-Singapore rail link stuck in Laos –The Rakyat Post

For the southwestern city of Kunming, China’s plan to extend a high-speed rail link 3,000 km south to Singapore is already a boon – pristine expressways, a gleaming station and something of a real estate boom, as young buyers crowd property showrooms. But in Laos, work has yet to start on what should be the first overseas leg of a rail line stretching throughout Southeast Asia. The country, one of the region’s poorest, could struggle to finance even part of the US$7 billion cost and has yet to agree financial terms with China.

 

NEDA visits Hongsa Power Station in Laos –The National News Bureau of Thailand

The Neighbouring Countries Economic Development Cooperation Agency (NEDA) has recently visited the Hongsa Power Station in Xaignabouri, Laos, as the power plant’s third generator began commercial operations.  According to NEDA Board Chairman Warakorn Samkoset, the power station’s third and final unit has begun generating electricity, providing 65-70% of the power used by the North of Thailand. Hongsa Power Station will export 1,473 megawatts (MW) of electricity to the Electricity Generating Authority of Thailand, with 100 MW for domestic consumption in Laos.

 

Party, State to facilitate better business in Laos –Vietnam News

The Party and State will facilitate Vietnamese investment and business in Laos, President Trần Đại Quang said during a working session with Vietnamese investors in Laos.  He hailed the efforts of businesses and of the Association of Vietnamese Investors in Laos to overcome difficulties and to ensure their projects are implemented on schedule. He also asked the association and relevant ministries to co-ordinate with the Lao side to better facilitate business operations and to take more social responsibility to reduce poverty, protect the environment, and ensure social welfare.

 

Laos gives the nod to foreign investors –The Nation

The laotian government has reaffirmed its commitment to giving the green light to foreign businesses seeking opportunities for investment in the country. “Following the common policy to attract foreign investment set by the government and given that the country is rich in natural resources, this will help increase the number of investors, especially Chinese businesses,” Deputy Prime Minister Dr Sonexay Siphandone said.

 

MYANMAR

How a systems-scale approach can solve Myanmar’s electrification woes and more –Devex

Environmental advocates are calling for a holistic, streamlined approach to building out Myanmar’s hydropower sector, which is attracting growing interest from donors and investors, including multilateral organizations such as the World Bank and the Asian Development Bank as well as countries such as China. Systems-scale planning, can help encapsulate sustainability, environment, economic and social concerns into projects’ design, implementation and impact. The approach looks at and guides design and implementation of projects based on a system — such as river basins or lakes — and not as individual projects that are not well-coordinated and which can lead to inefficiencies, conflicts, degradation and missed opportunities.

 

Thanlwin dams criticised ahead of state counsellor’s Thailand visit –Myanmar Times

Another civil society group has joined the mounting campaign against dams planned along the Thanlwin River, also known as the Salween, ahead of an upcoming energy meeting between Thailand and Myanmar. The local network called on the state counsellor, who is set to visit Thailand from June 23 to 25, to consider “the importance of the Thanlwin River as the home of ethnic minority peoples and as an invaluable source of biodiversity and natural resources”. The network also demanded the suspension of any dams until communities have been consulted.

 

Nixed China Aid Leaves Myanmar Agency in Debt, Citizens in Danger –The Diplomat

China’s refusal to deliver on pledged aid for the construction of a tunnel across Myanmar’s Irrawaddy River has left the Irrawaddy Division’s irrigation department millions of dollars in debt and hundreds of thousands of people at risk of flooding in what could be yet another case of Beijing’s troubling record on infrastructure in Southeast Asia. (See also: China Backs Out of Project, Irrawaddy Irrigation Dept Steeped in Financial Woes –The Irrawaddy)

 

Saving the Salween: Southeast Asia’s last major undammed river –The Ecologist

The free-flowing Salween is the last big undammed river in Southeast Asia, home to a flurry of endangered species including tigers and clouded leopards, writes Tom Fawthrop in Hpa-an, Karen State, Myanmar. And thanks to support from both the indigenous Karen people, and senior officials in China who see the huge ecotourism potential of the river and its dramatic gorge, it could just stay that way. In a world of galloping hydro-power rapidly engulfing the developing world and new dams popping up in the Amazon, the Congo and along the Mekong, it is hard to find any important river left in the world, that has escaped unscathed and undammed.

 

Three firms to face action for excessive gold mining in protected forest area –Eleven Myanmar

Legal action will be taken against three companies after they were found to be mining gold excessively and illegally in the Zin forest Reserve in Kantbalu Township, Shwebo District, according to lawmakers and local people. The forest reserve is the site of important natural features as bat caves and natural underground caves.

 

Protest Against Paung Township Quarry –Burma News International

About 500 local residents protesting against rock quarrying near Oke Tar Dar Village in Paung Township, Mon State by the Long Life Aggregate Mining Company Limited marched to the company’s offices on 5 June. The protesters claim that the quarrying has been destroying the villagers’ resources by, amongst other things, damaging plantations, farmlands, streams and roads and blocking drains.

 

THAILAND

Govt says road blasts won’t hurt forest area –Bangkok Post

The Highways Department insists its underground blasting, scheduled next week, to expand a road that cuts through Dong Phayayen-Khao Yai Forest Complex will not negatively affect the environment. The road is part of Highway 304, which is under construction to extend its traffic lanes. The project aims to help facilitate goods transport between the Northeast and eastern coast, home to the Laem Chabang Sea Port and Eastern Seaboard Industrial Estate.

 

720 sq km of destroyed forests reclaimed –Bangkok Post

A total of 450,000 rai of forestland has been reclaimed from encroachers in the past two years, and about 200,000 rai of it redistributed to the poor, according to the Internal Security Operations Command (Isoc) . Spokesman Peerawat Saengthong said that Isoc, together with the Ministry of Natural Resources and Environment, the Interior Ministry, the Defence Ministry, the National Council for Peace and Order and the Royal Thai Police Office launched a forest reclamation campaign on June 17, 2014.

 

Give hope to saviours of our forests –Bangkok Post (opinion)

The reforestation was meant to be a pilot project aimed at creating a sustainable forest plantation model, with local villagers as the central point. The increasing concern over massive loss of forest land has turned Nan into a new experimental site for urban dwellers who want to help protect forests. The popularity of the tree planting campaign reconfirms my belief that a crisis can create new opportunities. Deforestation and drought problems have triggered a new round of environmental awareness, this time on an individual level.

 

VIETNAM

Cốc San power plant opens –Vietnam News

The new Cốc San power plant in this northern province, a run-of-river hydropower facility supplying almost 30MW of power to regional off taker Northern Power Corporation, opened last week. The US$50m plant is backed by Vietnamese and foreign private investment and InfraCo Asia, the project represents the first foreign direct investment (FDI) in hydropower in the mountainous northern region as well as the largest FDI project in the province so far.

 

Ore mining industry suffers setbacks –VietNamNet Bridge

The decision to return the two mines under exploitation in Ha Giang province, according to analysts, shows that the golden age of the mining industry is over. The industry began to face big difficulties in 2013. A lot of mining companies have temporarily closed mines and halted the exploitation. The ore smuggling activities, which were bustling in previous years, have decline as China no longer collects ore. Enterprises, which usually complain they cannot obtain export licenses in the past, now are quiet.

 

Formosa asked to install automatic emissions monitoring equipment –Vietnam News

The Natural Resources and Environment Department in central province of Hà Tĩnh has asked two companies to install automatic monitoring equipment for testing emissions and the dust of emission discharge systems. According to the department head, Formosa Steel Ltd. Co and Vũng Áng Thermal Power Plant I were selected for this task. The equipment will automatically transmit data every hour to the department’s control centre.

 

Gold miner Besra Vietnam suffers massive losses –VietnamNet Bridge

Canadian Besra Inc.’s Besra Vietnam, the operator of two gold mines in the central province of Quang Nam namely Phuoc Son Gold Company Ltd. (PSGC) and Bong Mieu Gold Mining Company Ltd. (BMGMC) has suffered a loss of over VND1 trillion ($44.7 million) with a short-term debt volume of VND2.5 trillion ($111.7 million). PSGC has also suspended its operations due to lack of capital and huge losses.

 

PM: Marine environment must be protected –Vietnam News

Prime Minister Nguyễn Xuân Phúc has called for joint efforts to protect the marine environment and maintain sovereignty peacefully on the Việt Nam Sea. Addressing a ceremony to mark 2016 Việt Nam Seas and Islands Week and World Oceans Day, Phúc directed the Ministry of Natural Resources and Environment to co-operate with relevant agencies to inspect and severely punish any organisation or individual violating regulations on discharging wastewater into the sea.

 

 

DEVELOPMENT CONTEXT

Laos cracks down on social media critics –Aljazeera

Three Laos nationals quietly apologise on state TV for betraying the country through anti-government Facebook posts, a striking parade of apparent confessions in the communist regime’s latest crackdown on dissent. The ominous broadcast in late May was the first news of the trio for families desperate to know their whereabouts since they were arrested in March.

 

World Bank to loan Vietnam $310 mln for climate resilience –Thanh Nien News

The World Bank has approved a US$310 million loan to help Vietnam build climate resilience and ensure sustainable livelihoods for 1.2 million people in the Mekong Delta region. The approved Mekong Delta Integrated Climate Resilience and Sustainable Livelihoods Project supports better climate-smart planning and improved climate resilience of land and water management practices.

 

Canada should join China-led bank, AIIB –CCTV

The creation of the AIIB offers a strong presence that will encourage multilateral organizations to act more green, efficient and effective, providing a competitive angle that demonstrates AIIB’s advantages. The AIIB offers secure assets to institutional investors, such as issuing long-dated bonds that will provide a measurable return on funding infrastructure. China-led bank will expand its influence, making it advantageous decision for Canada to join in, since it will provide opportunities for Canada to be a standalone nation without being overly-influenced by the U.S. and Japan.

 

 

GLOBAL CONTEXT

Land Grabbing by Global Agribusiness –Global Research

Eight years after releasing its first report on land grabbing, which put the issue on the international agenda, GRAIN publishes a new dataset documenting nearly 500 cases of land grabbing around the world. In October 2008, GRAIN published a report called “Seized: the 2008 land grab for food and financial security”. It exposed how a new wave of land grabbing was sweeping the planet in the name of addressing the global food and financial crises.

 

Power-sharing model can widen energy access in ASEAN –SciDev.Net

A current ASEAN action plan for energy integration seeks to establish a regionwide electricity grid and energy market but the plan has suffered from long delays. The Nordic power pool model recommends that national governments simplify their approach by allowing companies to sell electricity across the border at transparent prices set by the market. The exchange rate is separate from the price consumers have to pay, which each country will have to determine on their own.

 

New Power Generation: Coal Still the Dominant Fuel –Oil and Gas 360

With growing public and government sentiment against coal heavily covered by media outlets, it was interesting to see the number of globally planned new generating units by fuel type (units defined as separate generating units at power plants). On a global basis, coal is the most popular fuel as far as planned capacity, with 3,019 units planned which would deliver 1,554 Gigawatts (GW) of capacity.

 

World Bank finds cash moving to renewables –UPI

Investments in renewable energy made up more than half of all private investments last year, signaling a low-carbon shift is under way, the World Bank said. A report from the bank finds global private investments held relatively steady from 2014 to total $111.6 billion last year. Investments in renewable energy, however, were higher in 2015 than during the past five years.

 

Energy access: It’s the policy, stupid –Decentralized Energy

Renewable energy companies in emerging markets in Africa and Asia frequently lament the shortage of financing as the main barrier to scaling decentralized solutions such as rooftop solar and mini-grids. But at a summit this month, industry leaders singled out the lack of supportive national energy policies as the biggest obstacle to accelerated growth. The decentralized renewable energy industry, which will play a central role in solving energy poverty for the 1.1 billion people (17% of humanity) worldwide without access to electricity, is booming and significant advances in policy are being made.

 

 

LOCAL LANGUAGE NEWS

BURMESE LANGUAGE

Myanmar – Thailand – China will discuss about Mong Tong Hydropower Project –Eleven News

The developers of the Mong Tong Hydropower project (China Three Gorges Corporation, China Southern Power Grid, Power Construction of China; Electricity Generating Authority of Thailand International, Myanmar’s International Group of Entrepreneurs Co,Ltd) will discuss about the design of the proposed project. Ms. Maria Lorea Cleto from SMEC International Pty Ltd said, they will redesign the project with cascade, and it will discuss at the 3rd meeting with the Ministry of Electrical Power.  CSOs and local communities have opposed this projects in several occasions and SMEC face difficulties in doing the EIA. The proposed dam will be the highest in South East Asia, which could produce 7100MW of electricity; 90% of which will go to Thailand and China.

 

Chinese Ambassador said he will request the Compensation for Land Loss -7 Day Daily

The Chinese Ambassador of Myanmar said he will request the Bejing government for land compensation. The farmland along the Kyauk Phyu – Kumming gas pipe line have been confiscated by the former military government, and some farmland have been destroyed during the construction and not possible to use it again as farmland. CSOs and local communities asked for their grievances during the meeting with the Chinese Ambassodor in Kyauk Phyu Township.

 

KHMER LANGUAGE

Loss of Mekong freshwater dolphin affecting more than 1000 households’ livelihood –FanKhmer

Fishermen in Preah Romkel commune Tharaborivat district of Stung Treng province have concerned about their livelihood that will getting down because of Don Sahon hydropower dam construction. This dam site is very close to Cambodia-Lao border about 2km.  Mr. Bun Thon is 44 years old and he is a member of eco-tourism committee in Preah Romkel commune. He said that constructing this hydropower dam has been affecting more than 1000 households’ livelihood in 8 villages of the commune where local people depend on fishing and eco-tourism. Also, kids drop their study due to the dam construction and one Mekong freshwater dolphin was died in 2015, he said. The villagers suggest to the Cambodian Government to take further action to stop this dam investment project. Mr. Suos Chanthol, one of commune committee raised the concern that the construction of the dam really affect on eco-tourism and biodiversity of Mekong River because the construction company use bomb to crack down the rock; and it has been affecting local health when people use river water for daily consumption.

 

THAI LANGUAGE

Thai-Puan Community fear Mekong fishes extinction –Transborder News

During 21-23 April, troops followed media from both Thailand and Vietnam, led by the Society of Environmental Journalists to visit Chiang Khan Loei Province to track facts concerning the Khong-Loei-Chi-mun water diversion project and the impacts from Mekong dam project. Thai-Puan communities are feared for fish extinction as the result of river diversion. The Royal Irrigation Department explained this is still in the study process and Mekong countries are not yet informed. About the atmosphere in the first days at Pak Tom, Chiang Khan district of Loei province, which is a community of ethnic villagers of Thai-Puan which will be affected from the project of Sri Song Rak of Flood gates, there were troops following and taking photos of the villagers and media folks who have undertaken the field visit.

 

Fear VS Explanation on Khong-Loei-Chi-Mun water diversion –Khaosod

From the community voice of Chiang Khan Loei province, people’s way of living have been connected with the river from the past. Here, villagers live on water flowing from Mekong River to Loei River. Major rivers are as used as sources of food, consumer goods from generation to generation. However, this important water source is being taken away from the villagers when the Royal Irrigation Department chose the mega project of Khong-Loei-Chi-Mun water diversion to study the possibility of hydraulics and ready to make it as small alley project ‘Floodgate Sri Song Rak’, which aims to tackle the drought problem in the Northeast in a sustainable way. The construction point will be at the estuary and the location of ‘Sri Song Rak Floodgate’ will fully affect the community area of Thai Phuan people. In late 2008, opinions regarding the impacts were conveyed when the headwoman of the village attended plan to develop an integrated approach to water management together with officials from the Department of Loei. However, the answer received was confusing as some locals will get benefits fully from this project. So the question is then what would happen to the remaining villagers which there was no answer from the officials.

 

Mekong Pulse –Thai PBS (Video)

Mekong River, the major river which is undergoing man-made changes.  The backpack journalists went to find answers in Chiang Khan and Pak Chom areas for these changes and what will happen next. The backpack journalist reported that Khok Wua Village in Pakchom district Loei province which is only 200kms away from the construction of Xayaburi dam is being impacted as the result of this project.

 

VIETNAMESE LANGUAGE

Slow Death” of  Mekong Delta region –BBC Vietnam

Kaeng Khut Khu is a village in Loei province, Thailand. This village is located along the Mekong river and fishing is the main income of local people. But in recent years, it’s very difficult for local people go to fishing as the water levels go up and down constantly. Besides, the fish are very small now. There aren’t as many big fish as in the past. In addition, it is known that this village is also attractive for camping along the Mekong River. But now no tourists want to go there for camping as the water levels of the river could increase suddenly and cause flooding and impacts to tourism development. So now the local people of this village cannot get income from fishing and tourism. They have to find another job such as worker or seller. (Read the full translated English summary on The Mekong Eye)

 

 

 

RESOURCES & PRESS RELEASES

UPDATE: MPE’s Civil Society Partners Make Major Contribution to New Mining EIA Framework in Cambodia –Mekong Partnership for the Environment via the Mekong Eye

Cambodia’s Ministry of Mines and Energy and the Ministry of Environment have co-signed an agreement to improve Environmental Impact Assessment (EIA) requirements in artisanal and small scale mining projects. Mekong Partnership for the Environment (MPE) partner Development and Partnership in Action (DPA) and a network of CSOs they facilitate played a key role in advising the government prior to the final agreement. The agreement aims to bring better transparency leading to stronger public participation in EIA processes.

 

CALL FOR PROPOSALS: CTI PFAN Asia forum for clean energy financing (AFCEF-7) –The CTI Private Financing Advisory Network (PFAN)

Calling all clean energy entrepreneurs! CTI Private Financing Advisory Network (PFAN) is now accepting proposals for the 7th Asia Forum for Clean Energy Financing (AFCEF-7), a regional business plan competition focused on connecting entrepreneurs with investors. Deadline for submission is Monday, June 20, 2016.   Find out more on the criteria, application process, and timeline please refer to http://cti-pfan.net/event/call-for-proposal-afcef-7/

 

CASE STUDY: Sun, Partnerships Power Thailand Solar Project –ADB

Thailand’s first large-scale solar power plant demonstrates the feasibility of large, private sector solar farms, and leads the way to a greener future. The Natural Energy Development company, a $250 million joint venture between CLP Thailand Renewables, Diamond Generating Asia, and the Electricity Generating Public Company, built the 55-megawatt photovoltaic solar plant in just 18 months, ahead of schedule and under budget.

 

PHOTOBLOG: Delta’s double dose: drought and salinationOxfam via Mekong Citizen

This photoblog explores the effect of the drought on Vietnam’s Mekong Delta. Extreme stress on fresh water supplies in the Mekong Delta because of severe drought, mainstream Mekong River water flow reduction, and the resulting salt water intrusion is drastically impacting the lives of the Delta’s 18 million residents. With 50 per cent less water streaming into the Delta from the Mekong mainstream, a result exacerbated not only by drought but upstream infrastructure developments, the salt water from the ocean is intruding and increasing salt intensity in the soil to unprecedented levels.

 

BLOG: Public Participation and Learning in Impact Assessment –HPPF, Thailand via The Mekong Eye

Members of the Regional Technical Working Group on Environmental Impact Assessment (RTWG on EIA, facilitated by Mekong Partnership for the Environment) participated in the Annual Conference of International Association for Impact Assessment in Nagoya, Japan in May 2016. IAIA is a global conference focusing on Impact Assessment tools and issues such as EIA, Health Impact Assessment (HIA), Public Participation, Biodiversity, Climate Change, and other topics. Here, an RTWG member shares his thoughts on the event and particularly one session “Learning-Centered Approaches to Impact Assessment.”

 

ARTICLE: Human Rights Concerns Raised Over Don Sahong Dam –International Rivers via Blue & Green Tomorrow

Serious concerns about human rights have been raised over the Don Sahong Dam. The United Nations Special Procedures has detailed concerns over the controversial dam under construction on the Mekong River in Laos in a report. The Human Rights Council will consider these concerns this week at its 32nd session. The Special Procedures highlight the likely transboundary impacts of the project on millions of people.

 

Editor’s notes:

  • The above is curated by The Mekong Eye, a GeoJournalism website which you can also follow onTwitterand Facebook
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