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Mekong Eye News Digest: 13 July 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, July 13, 2016

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

To July 13, 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 3800 key development professionals, government officials, business leaders and journalists.

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The Mekong: Slow Death of a River –RFA (Commentary)

Millions of people living along the Mekong River face a possibly irreversible depletion of key food supplies resulting from dam building and other diversions of its waters. Deforestation upstream along the riverbanks and poor land and water use practices in Vietnam’s downstream Mekong Delta have added to what can only be called a looming crisis.

Don Sahong Dam casts wide shadow over Mekong –Bangkok Post (Opinion)

‘If we cannot fish, what will we do?’ asked one elderly woman, as she stood looking out over the Mekong River, in Siphandone, southern Laos. This is a question that is increasingly echoed by many whose lives have, for generations, centred around the river’s abundance of fish, their migration routes and cycles; a way of life which may be on the brink of drastic change as a result of construction of the Don Sahong Dam.

Industry inputs sought for Greater Mekong Subregion’s future development –TTG Asia

More cross-country communication, conservation efforts, open borders, co-operation between governments and the private sector, and a stronger emphasis on providing quality experiences are essential to transform the GMS into a more attractive tourist destination, said industry stakeholders at this year’s Mekong Tourism Forum in Sihanoukville.



Mining Companies Told to Comply –The Diplomat

Only a few days after the Koh Kong Provincial Court found three environmental activists guilty for protesting against a sand dredging company, the Ministry of Energy and Mines has called for greater civilian participation in protecting The Kingdom’s natural resources. The Minister of Mining and Energy, issued a strong warning to mining and sand-dredging companies, saying those who do not act within ministerial guidelines will have their licenses revoked, be blacklisted and sent to court.

How Buddhist monks are battling deforestation in Cambodia –DW

Cambodia has one of the world’s highest deforestation rates. But a group of Buddhist monks are stepping up efforts to save forests by publicly revealing wrongdoings and mobilizing local villagers. Large parts of the forest have already disappeared to make space for plantations. In areas that are protected from such land concessions, illegal loggers cut down tree after tree.

Protest Leader Arrested in Mondolkiri After Reoccupation Attempt –The Cambodia Daily

An anti-eviction protester who police claim orchestrated several large-scale reoccupation attempts on a planned rubber plantation in Mondolkiri province was arrested on Monday, police and a rights monitor said. Rith Vanny, 43, was arrested after she and about 200 former residents of Koh Nhek district’s Rayar commune erected 18 crude shelters on the plantation on Sunday and Monday. (See also: Mondulkiri ‘squatter’ leader fronts court -Phnom Penh Post)

Railway Link on Track –The Khmer Times

Cambodia is committed to complete construction of the 6.5-kilometer cross-border railway linking Poipet city in Banteay Meanchey province to neighboring Thailand’s Sa Keo province by the year’s end. Minister of Public Works and Transport gave the assurance on Sunday when he inspected the construction site in Poipet’s Stung Bot district where the railway tracks from Cambodia and Thailand will meet. The 6.5-kilometer railway line is funded by the Asian Development Bank.

Returned UDG Evictees Want Double the Land –The Cambodia Daily

The 529 families who in 2010 traded their homes inside a $3.8 billion Chinese development project in Koh Kong province for land about 20 km away have petitioned local authorities to double the size of their replacement plots. The families, most of which accepted a few hundred dollars and 2.5 hectares inland from their old coastal homes in Kiri Sakor district, are among hundreds protesting the six-year-old deal after a group of holdouts negotiated better terms in May.



EPF extends support to environmental protection –Vientiane Times

The Environmental Protection Fund (EPF) has decided to forecast a budget of over 2.5 billion kip to support its environmental protection activities in four target provinces in the north of the country. The four target provinces are LuangNamtha, Phongsaly, Oudomxay and Bokeo, all of which have ample natural resources and valuable preserved wildlife habitats.

PM mulls forestry protection for sustainable hydropower –Vientiane Times

Prime Minister Thongloun Sisoulith has stressed the need for forestry protection to ensure the long term sustainability of hydropower development, which promotes economic growth and poverty reduction. Speaking at the meeting in Vientiane, he advised the ministry and other sectors to pay more attention to feasibility studies and to estimate the societal and environmental impacts of hydropower development projects together with developers before approving any more schemes.

Authorities: no illegal logging in XiengKhuang –Vientiane Times

Local authorities have yet to uncover any illegal logging in XiengKhuang province after Prime Minister Thongloun Sisoulith issued an order banning the export of unfinished wood products. Deputy Director of the provincial Agriculture and Forestry Department, told Vientiane Times that there are no gangs of illegal loggers operating in the province.



The National Environmental Policy is getting an upgrade from the version first enacted in 1940 –Myanmar Times

The reworked policy is nearing completion, though the draft still needs to be fully reviewed, U Hla Maung Thein, interim director general of Environmental Conservation Department. A final version of the draft policy will be posted on the department’s website when it is ready, he added.

Hydropower dams, major development projects suspended in Shan State: minister –Myanmar Times

The Naungpha hydropower dam is one of several major projects in Shan State that have been suspended until cost-benefit field analyses are performed, according to the state minister for finance and planning. Projects related to coal-fired power, large-acreage and border development, and hotels – all approved under the previous government – are on hold until the assessments are complete. The Naungpha dam, a joint venture between local conglomerate IGE and China’s Hydrochina Corporation, and seven other hydropower projects are among the developments halted pending review.

There is a fourth option on the Myitsone Dam –Frontier Myanmar

Now, Myanmar has an opportunity to move beyond ad-hoc decisions about single dam projects and begin a process of coordinated long-term planning to meet the country’s energy needs, while at the same time preserving the precious natural and cultural heritage of its river systems. It is also a golden opportunity for Chinese companies to involve themselves in projects that the Myanmar people see as beneficial for the country’s future.

Thilawa SEZ part A to create 40,000 jobs –Eleven Myanmar

Part A of Thilawa Special Economic Zone will create nearly 40,000 jobs when it starts operating, according to Myanmar-Japan Thilawa Development. The construction of the first part has already employed over 8,000 people. A total of 74 firms from 16 countries have invested in the zone. There will be a free zone and promotion area where the companies can enjoy tax exemptions for a minimum of five years based on the amount they export.

Nature under threat –Frontier Myanmar

A monk who campaigns to save forests features in an exhibition hosted by WWF to coincide with a report on the benefits of preserving Myanmar’s rich diversity of flora and fauna. He regards it as his responsibility to protect the surrounding forests, especially as they are attracting increased attention from loggers – both legal and illegal.

GE’s advanced tech to extend electricity access in Myanmar –Mizzima

GE technology will shortly be helping Myanmar expand its electricity outreach in Myanmar. In 2014, 70 percent of Myanmar’s households lacked access to electricity. The Myanmar National Electrification Plan aims to electrify 100% of Myanmar’s households by 2030. In support of this, Sembcorp Utilities has ordered two high-efficiency gas turbines from the company GE as well as the associated steam turbines and Heat Recovery Steam Generators (HRSGs) for its 225-megawatt Myingyan power project being built in Mandalay.

(See also: GE to supply turbines for 225MW Myingyan gas-fired power plant in Myanmar –Energy Business Review)



Thai-Lao relations caught in limbo despite common interests and goals –The Nation

The two countries face a common challenge over the utilisation of the Mekong. Judging from the government statement, it seems like neither side has an idea how to tackle the issue. The two premiers did, however, agree to conduct a study on water management and to discuss systematic management of the river with other stakeholders.

 Compensation for mining company’s ‘poisoning’ not enough: plaintiffs –The Nation

People in Tak province say nothing has been done about removing cadmium contamination from their water source, while the Appeals Court upheld the Civil Court’s earlier ruling against zinc-mining companies on the leakage of toxins into the Mae Tao River Basin. The Southern Bangkok Civil Court ruled that the 20 plaintiffs be given Bt62,000 each in compensation for cadmium poisoning. No court decision has been made on environmental damage.



Deputy PM urges firms to protect environment –Vietnam News

Environmental protection must be the top priority of businesses, Deputy Prime Minister Trịnh Đình Dũng said at a reception for General Director of Doosan Vina in Việt Nam Jung Yeon-in. He said Việt Nam welcomes and creates optimal conditions for foreign firms to do business in the country. However, he noted that overseas firms need to pay attention to protecting the environment and fully implementing commitments and regulations in the field.

Businesses learn lessons from Formosa scandal –VietnamNet Bridge

The biggest environmental scandal ever in Vietnam by Taiwan’s Formosa Plastics Corporation has caused foreign firms doing business here to be more concerned with regards to environmental protection issues. Hong Sun, general secretary of Korea Chamber of Business in Vietnam, and chief executive officer and president of HSDC Company, told VIR that Formosa’s large fine for the affected people “was a serious warning to all foreign and local investors and businesses operating in Vietnam without due attention to environmental protection.” (See also: Formosa’s US$500 Million Settlement Set to Usher in New Era for Environmental Enforcement –Vietnam Briefing)

Vietnam receives WB loan to support Mekong Delta urban development –Xinhua via Shanghai Daily

The World Bank and the State Bank of Vietnam signed agreements for loans and credits worth 560 million U.S. dollars for two projects to support urban development, climate resilience and sustainable livelihoods in the Mekong Delta. Out of the total, 250 million U.S. dollars will be used for the Can Tho Urban Development and Resilience Project, to reduce flood risk and improve connectivity between Can Tho city center and the new urban areas.

Experts warn of over-reliance on coal power –VietnamNet Bridge

Foreign experts have issued a warning to the Vietnamese government about its over-reliance on coal to make power, without clear mechanisms to attract investors into renewable energy projects. EuroCham vice chairman Tomaso Andreatta said Vietnam should gradually stop the construction of coal-fired power plants as they were dramatically increasing the country’s greenhouse gas emissions (GHGs) and causing environmental pollution.

Primary forest cleared illegally in Vietnam –Thanh Nien News

Environment police Sunday discovered that a company in Lam Dong Province had illegally logged a vast area of natural forest. Nearly 40 hectares in Bao Lam District had been cleared by the local Thanh Chi Company, and the police found hundreds of logs piled up. Investigators said Loc Bac did not have a valid environment impact assessment report before felling the trees.



What’s Behind the Death of a Prominent Cambodia Government Critic? –The Diplomat

Well-known Cambodian independent analyst Kem Ley was shot dead in broad daylight on Sunday morning with two bullets from a Glock at a Caltex petrol station in Phnom Penh, where he stopped as part of his regular morning routine that included coffee and newspapers. His death followed a months-long crackdown on dissenting voices that gained world-wide headlines with the bashings of two opposition politicians in October and last week’s Global Witness report which valued this country’s first family at a bare minimum $200 million.

(See also: With Critic’s Murder, a Singular Voice Silenced –The Cambodia Daily)

Cambodia should be cautious when it comes to Chinese aid –East Asia Forum

China’s current approach to development with Cambodia offers opportunities but also entails some risks for Cambodian foreign relations and development policy. As claimed by the Cambodian government, aid and investment from China is important for social and economic development. They present it as coming without conditions, helping develop the Cambodian economy while enabling Cambodia to maintain sovereignty and pursue an independent foreign policy on the international stage.

NGOs should get State development support –Vietnam News

The State should create a fair environment and legal system to help associations and civil social organisations to develop. This was a comment by the participants of the seminar on the legal environment for social organisations referring to the draft Law on Social Organisation which was co-held by the Việt Nam Union of Science and Technology Associations and the Non-Governmental Organisation Information Centre.



OSU Creates New Software To Assess Global Hydropower Potential Oregon Public Broadcasting

Engineers at Oregon State have created a free, open-source computer program that can determine a stream or river’s potential as an energy source. They released the program last Thursday. OSU’s new software compiles a network of global climate data and calibrates it with local data collected by users to assess a region’s hydropower potential.

Environmental groups push back against the TPP –Boulder Weekly

Recently, 450 U.S. environmental groups sent Congress a strong message: Vote down the Trans-Pacific Partnership (TPP). The environmental groups, a collective of landowner, indigenous rights and other allied organizations expressed their opposition to TPP by penning a letter to Congress, urging members to vote against the controversial trade agreement.

“Lean, clean and green”? The AIIB’s first weigh-in –China Dialogue

Representatives from 57 countries, journalists, industry experts and civil society leaders gathered in Beijing on 25-26 June for the first annual meeting of the Asia Infrastructure Investment Bank (AIIB). This was the bank’s first weigh-in, where its first six months of progress since launching in January would be judged by stakeholders and engaged parties. Because the AIIB has a mandate to fund large scale infrastructure in a number of developing countries around the world, the extent to which these projects are environmentally sound will have a long term impact on the future environment and development of those countries.




The government has not released any notification for Dawei SEZ since the DASSK visit to Thailand -7 Day

On 7th July, the Vice President of Myanmar Mr. Henry met with Japanese Ambassador and the DG of Hitachi Investment Co.,Ltd, and discussed the Japanese investment in Dawei SEZ. The project could promote economic development for Myanmar, Thailand and Japan. The project have been halted for a couple of years, but the state chancellor Daw Aung San Suu Kyi has raised the case on her recent visit to Thailand. The Chair of the Dawei SEZ Management committee Mr. Han Sein said, the government has not released any notification yet.


Myanmar government ordered to delay the Salween dam project in Shan State.  Focus on listening to people’s voices from many sectors to come up with the solution –Transborder News

On 11 July, 2016 at the hotel in Mon State, Myanmar there was a workshop held on ‘Vision on Salween River Basin’ organized by Research Program on Land and Water and Ecosystems (WLE), Forest Department of Myanmar, Australian government and other organizations. The workshop was attended by about 60 participants including government officials, academics and residents living in the water shed area. At the same time, the local media group such as Myanmar TV, Sky News Network, and the Mon News Agency also paid interest in the event. Dr. Min Kyi Win, Ministry of Natural Resources and Environmental Conservation of Mon State, said the Salween River Basin is a very important, however at this stage, people and community livelihoods are at risk in the long term. This project will allow people to express their opinions on watershed management and how can we together use the Salween River. And we hope this will drive to the conservation of Salween basin as well as forestry so people can use this shared resource in the sustainable way.


The Secret of Sesan 2  –Vietnam Forum of Environmental Journalists via the Mekong Eye

Vietnamese journalists took an investigative field trip to Stung Treng province of Cambodia where the Lower Sesan II dam is being constructed now on the Sesan River, one of the mainstreams of the Lower Mekong River. On the way from Phnom Penh to Stung Streng, the journalists saw many rubber trees that have been planted along the road, and the wood has been stripped for building houses. Lower Sesan II dam is the biggest dam in Cambodia and it will produce capacity 400MW to meet the power demands of Cambodia. This hydropower project has been designed by Vietnam Electricity (EVN) and now is being constructed by China Huaneng Group one of the biggest electricity groups of China who manage many big dams in the upstream of Mekong River. According to Mekong Watch and 3S River Protection Network, Lower Sesan II dam will cause serious impacts to the fish population of the Mekong River. It will cause a decline of 9.3% of the fish population in the region and threaten more than 50 fish species. The experts warning that Lower Sesan II dam will contribute to change the water flows of Mekong and Tonle Sap River of Cambodia as well as affect the sediments in the Mekong Delta Region.

(Read in Vietnamese on VFEJ or in English on The Mekong Eye)



REPORT: New Study: Excluding Women from EIA Worsens Social and Environmental Impacts Mekong Partnership for the Environment/Pact on the Mekong Eye

The Government of Vietnam requires Environmental Impact Assessments (EIAs) for all large-scale infrastructure development projects and supports public participation in the EIA process. However, a new study shows that women and other marginalized people are often not engaged effectively in the EIA. Mekong Partnership for the Environment (MPE) supported the Center for Environment for Community Research (CECR), a Vietnamese NGO, to investigate the gender dimensions of public participation in EIA processes in Vietnam. The report examines women’s participation in two development project sites in Vietnam; Trung Son Hydropower Project funded by the World Bank and the Phu Hoa Landfill Project supported by the Asian Development Bank.

UPDATE: Community Awareness Raising for Public Participation on EIA Mekong Partnership for the Environment/Pact on the Mekong Eye

Mekong Partnership for the Environment is helping communities in Myanmar engage in EIA processes related to infrastructure projects that may impact their environments and communities. On 26 June 2016, MPE partner Forests Resource Environment Development and Conservation Association (FREDA) conducted the first of two workshops on “Community Awareness Raising for Public Participation on EIA” in Mandalay, Myanmar. The workshop allowed space for project affected communities and other community-based organizations to understand the new EIA procedures of Myanmar and how they could participate in EIA processes of future development projects in Myanmar. It also allowed them to share experiences and harmful impacts of development projects in their respective communities.

EVENT: 2016 Greater Mekong Forum on Water, Food, and Energy –WLE Greater Mekong

The Mekong Forum on Water and Food is the largest event of its kind in the Mekong Region. It is a major, regional knowledge-sharing event, interfacing knowledge producers with knowledge users. The forum is designed for knowledge users: government and development agencies, the private sector and research-for-development practitioners. We emphasise deliberation and listening, query and debate. The event will be in Bangkok during 9-11 November 2016. Click here for more information.

EVENT: Global Water Conference 2016 –Global Water Conference

The Global Water Conference 2016 supported by Ministry of Livestock, Fisheries and Rural Development, Myanmar (MLFRD) and Southeast Asian Water Utilities Network (SEAWUN) with the theme of “Sustainable Water: The Keystone for Economy, Environment, Health and Security” is designed to facilitate the implementation of the water management policies and encouraging collaboration between those working on water resources management and water technologies, and those working on environmental, public health, economic growth and other issues. This is also an unparalleled platform to get updated on the market direction and explore investment opportunities in the water industry in ASEAN. The event will take place in Yangon, Myanmar during 17-18 August 2016, read more information, click here.

REPORT: Sustainable energy in Asia by 2050 –WWF

A new report from WWF argues that South East Asia’s energy needs could be met from non-polluting sources by 2050. Nations such as Vietnam, Myanmar, Laos, Cambodia and Thailand are all relying heavily on environmental damaging coal as an energy resource. But according to WWF’s studies the massive coal consumption and associated pollution could be exchanged with sustainable energy.

BLOG: Rivers in Myanmar: can the ecosystem tell us how things are going? –WLE CGIAR

With Myanmar opening up and development of its water resources occurring at a fast rate, there is an urgent need to understand the river situation and to ask questions of how best to manage these rivers so that they continue to provide services to a society that appears destined to grow. An issue that is already suggesting that things are not as good as they could be, is that the fish stocks that people are so dependent on, appear to be in serious decline.  Why is this?  Have the fish and the rivers themselves been used too much?  Are the rivers polluted or are they suffering some other form of stress?  What can be done to protect the fish stocks so that they continue to provide for the people of Myanmar?

RESOURCE: Environmental and Social Guidance Note for Hydropower Projects –The European Bank for Reconstruction and Development

This guidance note equally addresses the environmental and social challenges (and good international practices to address such challenges) associated with the construction, physical footprint and operation of hydropower schemes. This guidance note aims at providing an overview of the key environmental and social risks that should be considered during the preparation, implementation and monitoring of hydropower projects.


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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  • Any information or opinions above are the responsibility of the authors and/or originating outlets and may not reflect the work or opinions of MPE, its donors, or partners. Contents above may be edited slightly for presentation.

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