By The Mekong Eye
Mekong Region, June 25, 2016
MEKONG NEWS DIGEST: Mekong Partnership for the Environment (MPE)
To June 21, 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.
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China tackles the issues of Greater Mekong Subregion –The Nation (Opinion)
This year, many of those present will have heard for the first time of a new multinational agreement driven by China that will play an increasingly important role – namely the Lancang-Mekong Cooperation or LMC (Lancang is China’s name for Mekong). In many ways the LMC is a smaller version of Asean But with just six countries involved and China at the helm, I expect results will come more quickly..
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. Around 100 delegates from Mekong River countries and international observers attended the forum in Bangkok to follow the latest developments in infrastructure and water resource management in the Mekong River Region.
Cambodia’s solar sector set for bright future –Southeast Asia GLOBE
The Kingdom’s ability to produce renewable energy boosted with $30m funding from Climate Investments Funds. The $8.1-billion Climate Investments Funds (CIF), based at the World Bank, is to provide the money under its Scaling Up Renewable Energy in Low-Income Countries Programme (SREP).Approximately 70% of the investment will focus on a solar-energy development programme, including domestic and rooftop solar systems, minigrids and utility-scale solar farms. There will also be funding for a biomass power project as well as public awareness campaigns and policy support.
Slight Increase in Dolphin Numbers –Khmer Times
Cambodia’s freshwater Mekong dolphin population has increased by four, adding a quartet of calves in the first five months of 2016 while also seeing a drop in the mortality rate compared with last year. This was encouraging news for environmentalists in a region where increased dam construction has raised concerns over the dwindling numbers of dolphins.
Laos banks on road link with China –Bangkok Post
With its fast-growing economy, landlocked Laos is turning a once disadvantageous position into an important land transport link for Asean regional connectivity with southern China’s Yunnan province. The 114-kilometre Hongsa-Chiang Man Road, which will be a shortcut to Laos’ northern Luang Prabang province, will link Thailand, Laos and Vietnam with southern China and boost trade among these countries.
Damming the Nam Tha in Northern Laos –The Diplomat
The Nam Tha, or Tha River, begins in northern Laos near the Lao-China border and runs southwest to join the Mekong just south of Huay Xay on the Lao-Thai border. The Nam Tha dam is being built by a subsidiary of the China Southern Power Grid, and 95 percent of the electricity it generates will be sold to Thailand. Scheduled to be completed in 2017, the dam will displace over 10,000 ethnic Lao and minority peoples, and during my visit the village Ban Hadmuark was being enlarged into a resettlement town for displaced villagers.
Villagers condemn logging and mining –Eleven Myanmar
A press conference was held in Yangon, on June 16 exposing illegal mining and logging operations along the Chindwin River in Kachin State and Sagaing Region. The event, organised by the Red Shan Youth group and Kuki Women’s Centre, they said illegal activities had destroyed around 60 per cent of the forests along the river. Researchers claimed that more than 250,000 acres in Kaniare was being used for illegal and legal gold mining.
Government Told to Demand Transparency From SEZ Firms –The Irrawaddy
The companies involved in planning and building special economic zones (SEZs) in Dawei and Kyaukphyu are failing to disclose impact assessments and other information relating to the massive projects, according to the International Commission of Jurists (ICJ). Progress on the Dawei SEZ, in southern Burma’s Tenasserim Division, has been delayed by a lack of funding, but the governments of Burma, Thailand and, more recently, Japan, are all involved in a project that looks to be moving ahead.
Suu Kyi faces dilemma over controversial dam project –Nikkei Asia Review
Since its suspension five years ago, the $3.6 billion Myitsone hydropower project has come to symbolize the bad old days in Myanmar. Signed into existence by the military government and the state-owned China Power Investment Corp. in 2006, the project proceeded with little public consultation, and even fewer discussions of its social and environmental costs. All this despite the fact that the 6,000-megawatt dam was expected to displace 10,000 people and flood 766 sq. km of forest. Now, the new government led by Aung San Suu Kyi’s National League for Democracy is faced with the difficult decision.
Authorities Visit Disputed Coal Power Plant in Mon State –The Irrawaddy
Authorities in Mon State for the first time visited a Thai cement factory where a coal power plant was built without informing locals or authorities, said local sources. Members of the Mon State local government visited the compound of Mawlamyine Cement Limited (MCL) factory in Kyaikmayaw Township—where the power plant was constructed—and spoke with factory officers during the first week in June.
An Australian mining firm has purchased an 80 percent stake in a copper-mining project in Sagaing Division, a region where another mine operated by a Chinese state-owned company has drawn strong opposition from local residents. Metro Mining Ltd. announced that it had agreed to pay US$62,500 to the Burmese-owned Mahar San Company for a stake in a joint venture that will develop the Yar Taung Mine, a project that covers an area of more than 7.5 km2.
The Yadana, Yetagon, Zawtika and Shwe gas projects are expected to collectively produce 515 billion cubic feet of natural gas for export and 160.6 billion cubic feet for local use in the 2016-2017 fiscal year, according to the second five-year National Development Plan (from 2016-2017 to 2020-2021).
In Mon state, expanding quarries threaten farms –Karen News
The number of quarries in Mon State is quickly increasing and locals say authorities fail to regulate their environmental impact on farmlands. Workers had set off an explosion in a local quarry located about 10 km away and a cloud of dust drifted out from the area towards the plantations here in Mon State, southeastern Myanmar. Farmer Nyan Htay said several blasts occurred every day after quarrying had increased in the area in recent years. The resulting increase in pollution, he said, has affected the local environment and the harvest of his 6-acre rubber plantation.
Advocacy Groups to Monitor Government’s Dealings with Toyo-Thai –Burma News International
Mon State advocacy groups will continue to monitor the activity of the state government and Toyo Thai Corporation Public Company Limited (TTCL) after representatives met recently to discuss the gas energy investment options, according to groups in opposition to the coal-fired plant.
Korean project battles desertification in Myanmar –Korea JoongAng Daily
Like others living in Myanmar’s central dry zone, villagers from Kyauk Pyin Kan in the ancient city of Bagan have long suffered from low rainfall, high temperatures and desertification. So for villagers, the forestation project helmed by the Korea International Cooperation Agency (Koica) has been a boon both for the long-term development of the region and for their immediate survival.
Singapore is top investor in Myanmar’s Thilawa economic zone –International Business Times
Singapore has been listed as the top investor so far in a huge industrial zone on the outskirts of Yangon, Myanmar, according to the country’s Directorate of Investment and Company Administration. A special report by the Eleven Media Group showed that the $1.5 billion (S$2 billion) Thilawa Special Economic Zone (SEZ) has attracted a total of $713.3 million of investments including everything from children’s toy manufacturing to a car assembly plant and a deep sea port.
The Lady comes calling –Bangkok Post (Opinion)
The visit this week by the Nobel Peace Prize laureate and democracy icon Aung San Suu Kyi will certainly brighten the spirits of the sombre Thai people and could also lift the profile of the Thai junta and Myanmar’s top leader. Yet, we shouldn’t romanticise too much about The Lady’s capacity as the political realities in Myanmar and Thailand remain daunting. Besides, she is no longer a secular saint but a fully-fledged politician.
Suu Kyi visit set to push Dawei –Bangkok Post
The multibillion-dollar Dawei megaproject is expected to get a new lease of life when Myanmar leader Aung San Suu Kyi visits Thailand next week. Deputy Prime Minister Somkid Jatusripitak said Thailand would raise Dawei’s development plan along with other economic cooperation issues in talks with a Myanmyar trade delegation, led by State Counsellor Suu Kyi, during a June 23-25 visit to Thailand.
NGOs to oppose megaprojects during Suu Kyi visit –Bangkok Post
Non-governmental organisations on Tuesday called on Aung San Suu Kyi to put on hold two projects with Thailand during her visit to the country. As the government is preparing for her first visit to Thailand as foreign minister and state counsellor, 23 non-governmental groups are also making their move against attempts by the host Thailand to ink deals with Mrs Suu Kyi during her three-day trip.
Heavy-handed actions crushing villagers –Bangkok Post
The intensified crackdown on encroachment and logging by the military regime has dealt a heavy blow to villagers who live in harmony with nature in protected forest areas, while leaving most influential big timber businesses unscratched. The suppression followed two orders issued in 2014 by the National Council for Peace and Order designed to protect and reclaim the forests and which impose harsh punishment for encroachment on protected areas and for illegal logging.
Thailand’s nuclear plans inch forward with new bill –Nikkei Asia Review
The bill mandates the establishment of a new body, the Nuclear Energy for Peace Commission, to oversee nuclear energy policy and procedures; monitor compliance with the act; and advise on nuclear safety, among other duties. The commission will be chaired by Prime Minister Prayuth Chan-ocha. Under the bill, entities wishing to establish nuclear facilities, including nuclear power plants, will enter a “step-by-step” licensing process, “starting from a site license, a construction license, an operating license, and ending with a decommissioning license.
Asia Cement Plc has set up talks with the Industry Ministry to try to resolve its revoked licence to operate a limestone mine. Asia Cement was granted a licence to operate a limestone mine in Nakhon Si Thammarat province in 1997, expecting the mine would help increase its cement production to meet rising demand in the south.
Once bitten: Vietnam province opposes hydropower plant –Thanh Nien News
Gia Lai authorities are opposing a plan to build a hydropower plant that a company has submitted to the government fearing it could cause similar damages the Central Highlands province has already suffered from other plants. “The Vinh Son 2 hydropower plant will cause huge damages to the Ba River’s lowland,” the media quoted Kpah Thuyen, deputy chairman of the Gia Lai People’s Committee.
Chasing fish and the truth in Southern VN –Vietnam News (Blog)
In early December 2010, Vietnamese tra fish (basa fish) made headlines when the World Wildlife Fund (WWF) placed it on its red list, which names produce that is farmed under unhygienic conditions or traded illegally. The red label on Vietnamese basa fillets meant that WWF’s suggestion to refrain from consuming the product could affect the lives of millions of farmers, workers and traders in the Cửu Long (Mekong) Delta, where basa fish farms and processing factories are based. I then decided to volunteer to investigate the issue of unfairness suffered by the basa fish industry.
Hydropower project in national park faces objection –VietnamNet Bridge
The environment ministry has objected to a hydropower project that would go up in Yok Don National Park in Daklak Province due to environmental concerns. Earlier, the Ministry of Agriculture and Rural Development took the same stance against the Drang Phok hydropower project in the Central Highlands. In a document sent to the Prime Minister, Minister of Natural Resources and Environment Tran Hong Ha said the planned hydropower project would cover around 300 hectares and thus leave negative impact on the environment.
ADB pledges more support for Vietnam’s sustainable growth –Thanh Nien News
The Asian Development Bank (ADB) will continue assisting the Vietnamese government through sovereign lending of about US$1 billion annually, its president said at a press briefing Friday. The bank is preparing the 2016-2020 Country Partnership Strategy, which aims to help Vietnam promote more inclusive and environmentally sustainable economic growth.
Vietnamese make offshore move –Re News
DNV GL will deliver a feasibility study for the 170MW Phu Cuong 1 offshore wind farm off the Vietnamese coast, its first in the country.The advisers entered into a contract with Phu Cuong Group, a local company that aims to invest $435m in the project, it said.
At the recently concluded policy dialogue on Socio-Economic Development in Myanmar on 28th May, 2016, jointly conducted by Mizzima and ActionAid Myanmar, speakers urged the importance of dialogue and deliberation as a way out to find solutions for peace, stability, and economic development. Myanmar’s’ tryst with democracy and inclusive development at the turn of 2015 has created all round enthusiasm and expectations run high vis-a-vis the anchorage or the trajectory of development policy.
Power-sharing model can widen energy access in ASEAN –Eco-Business
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.
ADB signs agreement on safeguard systems –Manila Times
Asian Development Bank (ADB) has signed a collaboration agreement with development partners to help strengthen country-safeguard systems in Asia and the Pacific. In a statement on Friday, ADB said the use of a country’s own laws, regulations, and institutions for approval of projects funded by the development partners has been a long-term goal of all the institutions.
Environmental activists were killed at a rate of more than three per week in 2015, according to a new report by Global Witness. The murders occurred amid conflicts with mining, logging, hydro power, and agribusiness operations, particularly in indigenous lands. The report, On Dangerous Ground, documents 185 cases of environmental activists murdered in 16 countries around the world in 2015.
ADB vows rise in loans to Myanmar –The Nation
Asian Development Bank (ADB) aims to lend at least US$350 million (Bt12.3 billion) a year to Myanmar during 2017-2022, targeting to finance government and privately-owned projects mainly to improve the country’s infrastructure and create jobs. At the press conference, ADB President Takehiko Nakao said that the bank would scale up lending to both the government and private sector.
Lack of data, openness could obstruct soil clean up –China Dialogue via Earth Journalism Network
China’s Soil Pollution Prevention Action Plan, which was released late last month after years of delays, sets out clear goals in terms of dealing with soil pollution, but a lack of detail in the document has disappointed environmental experts and campaigners. The plan, which has been three years in the making, mandates that a worsening of soil pollution will be brought under initial control by 2020; and that soil quality nationwide will be stabilised or improve by 2030.
Since China launched the One-Belt-one-Road (OBOR) initiative – a long-term plan for land connectivity network across Asia and maritime routes spanning the seas from the Pacific to the Mediterranean – India has preserved a coy reticence about its participation in the venture. India’s foreign secretary S. Jaishankar made a definitive statement on the subject. Without mentioning OBOR, he made it clear that India viewed it very differently from the Asian Infrastructure Investment Bank (AIIB), also a Chinese initiative.
Asian-led financial bodies needn’t compete with current players –East Asia Forum
The first half of 2016 saw two notable steps in the development of regional financial institutions in Asia. The first was when the ASEAN+3 Macroeconomic Research Office (AMRO) was upgraded from a company registered in Singapore to an international organization and the second development is the first annual meeting of the Asian Infrastructure Investment Bank (AIIB) slated to be held in Beijing on 25–26 June. As the world globalises further, other developing regions are likely to establish their own regional institutions to provide global public goods. An important lesson for these countries from Asia’s experience is that such institutions should find ways of cooperating with global institutions instead of trying to upstage and replace them.
This is how China can live up to its huge wind energy potential –The Washington Post
As the world’s biggest producer of greenhouse gas emissions, China’s national climate goals are critical to the success of the Paris climate agreement and the world’s climate future. Among the nation’s commitments — alongside its vow to begin to show reductions in carbon output in the next 15 years — is the ambitious goal of producing at least 20 percent of its primary energy from non-fossil fuel sources by the year 2030.
Desertification is one of the major problems adversely affecting the quality of the land. As defined by Green Facts, desertification is the persistent degradation of dryland ecosystems by variations in climate and human activities. To promote public awareness about the situation, June 17 is commemorated as the World Day to Combat Desertification and Drought.
Road To Low-Carbon ASEAN Community –Euroasia Review (Analysis)
Adopting energy efficiency, investing in renewables and building capabilities on nuclear energy safety may be crucial for Southeast Asia to realise a low-carbon ASEAN Community consistent with the goals of the Paris Climate Agreement. The need to mitigate climate change has never been more apparent. This is particularly so in Southeast Asia, which is both severely affected by the impact of global warming and a rapidly increasing emitter of greenhouse gases.
China’s Last Wild River Carries Conflicting Environmental Hopes –The New York Times
Three great rivers rush through parallel canyons in the mountains of southwest China on their way to the coastal plains of Asia. At least 10 dams have been built on two of them, the Mekong and the Yangtze. The third remains wild: the remote, raging Nu, known as the Salween in Myanmar, where it empties into the Andaman Sea. It is the last free-flowing river in China. Environmentalists have waged a passionate defense of the Nu for more than a decade, battling state hydropower firms determined to build dams to harness the river, whose name in Chinese means “angry.”
LOCAL LANGUAGE NEWS
Mining Activists from Three Provinces Discuss Advocacy –RFA Khmer via the Mekong Eye
About 30 Community Mining Focal People (CMFP) from Mondolkiri, Ratanakiri and Preah Vihear provinces in Cambodia gathered on June 14 in Banlung town, Ratanakiri to present and share their advocacy plans and updates about impacts of mining on local people. Ms. Vong Socheat, a CMFP from Mondolkiri province said that one mining company has a license to mine and the company forced villagers to give farmlands to them because the farmlands are in the exploration or exploitation area of the company. She also said that local authorities have not paid attention to those issues, but they have forced local people to leave their farmlands as it belongs to the company. Read full article in English on the Mekong Eye
Fishermen in Preah Romkel commune Tharaborivat district of Stung Treng province, Cambodia are concerned that their livelihood will be harmed 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’ livelihoods in eight villages of the commune where local people depend on fishing and eco-tourism. Read the summary in English on the Mekong Eye
Concern for TPP/ Environmental loss by Chinese investment –Green News TV
Miss Kannika Kittiwetchakun, the coordinator for FTA Watch network said at the seminar on ‘Transboundary Investment Risk for Resources Monopoly’, organized by the Society of Environmental Journalists on 13 June that while the draft constitution doesn’t contribute to the protection of natural resources, however The Strategic Partnership Agreement Asia – Pacific, which is known as The Trans-Pacific Partnership (TPP) that Mr. Somkid Jatusripitak, Deputy Prime Minister is preparing the country to join is something to be more worried about as it was stated that if Thai government issued regulations that would affect corporate profits to invest, those companies can sue the government of Thailand.
Constitution draft block sustainable development –Green News TV
Mr. Buntoon Srethasirote, the director of Good Governance for Social Development and the Environment (GSEI) and former Commissioner of Constitution Drafting Committee, said in the seminar on ‘Transboundary Investment Risk for Resources Monopoly’ organized by the Society of Environmental Journalists on 13 June that the draft constitution that has Mr Meechai Ruchupan to hold a referendum on 7th of August includes the content that is not conducive to sustainable development. The downside of this draft constitution is that the content reduces human rights, which is the foundation of sustainable development. The right to development and the right to a good environment, is an indicator for the advancement of the constitution. In addition, it is also found that the mechanism of the constitution is not likely to make a strong state. Hence, it is impossible to meet sustainable development goal no. 17, objective no. 169.
Investment and transboundary impact –Seub Nakhasathien Foundation
Miss Kannika Kittiwetchakun, the coordinator for FTA Watch network in the seminar on ‘Transboundary Investment Risk for Resources Monopoly’, organized by the Society of Environmental Journalists on 13 June explained about the draft negotiation framework for Economic Partnership Agreement Asia Pacific. She said by a country being part of The Trans-Pacific Partnership (TPP) which allows transboundary investment to have access to Thailand’s resources. TPP which is a trade agreement among twelve Pacific Rim countries has U.S. as the main leader will receive the benefits as at present in addition to the policy and future constitution of Thailand that doesn’t favor the protection of resources nor make them useful to the nation. Currently, Thailand is a party to the Convention to arbitration which is kind of investment that enables investors to sue the state. United Nations Commission on International Trade – UNCITRAL will state that “Even arbitration is considered and information is received, this can always be taken back to the process of justice in a country.”
RESOURCES & PRESS RELEASES
UPDATE: Regional Journalists Examine Impacts of Don Sahong Dam on Dolphins, Fisheries, Villagers –Mekong Partnership for the Environment
Journalists from across the Mekong region met villagers, government officials and NGOs to understand and write stories about the costs and benefits of the Don Sahong dam. Mekong Partnership for the Environment partner Cambodia Institute for Media Studies convened 20 local and four regional journalists in Stung Treng from May 26-28 to learn about the dam and it’s effect on communities, the environment and the dolphin and fish populations. The event “Investigative Reporting Skills on Don Sahong Dam and Reporting on Environmental Impact and EIA Safeguard Policies” also featured discussion of Cambodian safeguard policies and a government presentation about Cambodia’s efforts to strengthen their EIA and public participation policies.
NEWS: Lao PDR supports the MRC’s intention to re-engage with ASEAN –Mekong River Commission
A Lao Minister in charge of the ASEAN matters has promised to support the Mekong River Commission’s intention to strengthen the cooperation between the two regional organisations, says the MRC Secretariat’s CEO Pham Tuan Phan. CEO Pham yesterday met in Vientiane with H.E. Mr Alounkeo Kittikhoun, Minister to the Prime Minister’s Office and ASEAN Senior Officials Meeting (SOM) Leader of Lao PDR.
The Seminar on Formulating ASEAN-China Environmental Cooperation Action Plan 2016-2020 was held on 14-15 June in Kunming, China. The seminar aims to operationalise the ASEAN-China Strategy on Environmental Cooperation (2016-2020) which was recently endorsed by senior officials on environment from both sides.
REPORT: Summaries of the Asia Clean Energy Forum 2016 –The Asia Clean Energy Forum 2016
The Asia Clean Energy Forum is the premier knowledge-sharing event for staying current with the latest developments and key issues in Asia’s clean energy sector. Each June, clean energy professionals convene at ADB Headquarters to network, discuss issues, exchange knowledge and do business. In 2016, we’re celebrating the 11th anniversary of the ACEF conference. Click here for more information and the summaries of the event.
REPORT: Chinese Investment in Myanmar: A Scoping Study – Global Environmental Institute (GEI)
The purpose of this scoping study conducted by the Global Environmental Institute (GEI) is to provide a better understanding of the presence and operations of Chinese companies involved in overseas foreign direct investment activities (ODFI) in Myanmar, along with direct and indirect environmental and social impacts associated with investments in target jurisdictions.
REPORT: Analysis on ADB Investment in Greater Mekong Subregion: The Impact of People’s Livelihood –The NGO Forum on ADB
In a region with high dependence on natural resources, the original livelihoods, and agricultural resources in the communities cited in Nam Theum 2, Cambodia Rehab Railway and Song Bung 4 are the lifeblood for rural populations. We urge the ADB to remain steadfast in conducting the necessary assessments pre project approval, being due diligent to safeguards requirements during implementation, with a committed ‘hands on’ monitoring of Analysis on ADB Investments in the GMS: The Impact on People’s Livelihoods in order to address the future impacts of infrastructure in the GMS.
WORKSHOP: Empowering forest communities – a practical approach to gender equality and women’s empowerment –The Center for People and Forest
Join this upcoming training in which participants will experience first-hand gender mainstreaming interventions in sustainable forest management, including how to assess gender dynamics to evaluate an intervention’s impacts on gender equality and empowerment. Half of the training will be spent with Ban Tai Khao community in Thailand, where participants will have the opportunity to draw on-the-ground and direct lessons from interactions with local women and men leaders. Participants will have the opportunity to draw on-the-ground and direct lessons from interactions with local women and men leaders. Dates: 21-27 August 2016, apply now
STATEMENT: Thailand: Women Human Rights Defenders and Villagers Oppose Coal Mining and Demand Climate Justice –Indigenous Voice of Asia
This statement originates from the solidarity activity held at Ban Haeng, Lampang on June 9, 2016 which was attended by more than 100 villagers, the community-based Rak Ban Heng organisation and human rights defenders from nine countries. WE, the undersigned members of Asia Pacific civil society, representing different constituencies, movements and organisations, express our solidarity with the Ban Haeng community opposing the coal mine in Tambon Ban Haeng, Ngao District, Lampang and condemn the threats and harassment committed against the villagers and community organisers in the area.
REPORT: Transboundary River Basins: Status and Trends –The Transboundary Waters Assessment Programme (TWAP)
The Transboundary Waters Assessment Programme (TWAP) was initiated by the Global Environment Facility (GEF) to create the first baseline assessment of all the planet’s transboundary water resources. This serves a number of purposes, including benchmarking and knowledge exchange, identification and classification of water bodies at risk, and increased awareness of the importance and state of transboundary waters.
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