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Mekong Eye News Digest: 20 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 20, 2016

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

To July 20, 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 around 4000 key development professionals, government officials, business leaders and journalists.

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Apocolypse Now on the Mekong River –Boulder Weekly

China has built several dams on the river that irrevocably damage the ecology of the waterway, and subsequently the lives of the people in Chiang Khong. Many more dams are proposed on the Mekong River in China, which will further mar the communities and ecological systems downstream in Thailand, Laos, Myanmar, Cambodia and Vietnam.

NEDA and JICA sign MOU on Mekong sub-region development cooperation –National News Bureau of Thailand

The Neighbouring Countries Economic Development Cooperation Agency (NEDA) and the Japan International Cooperation Agency (JICA) have recently signed a memorandum of understanding (MOU) to cooperate in the development of the Mekong sub-region. The  Finance Minister said that emphasis will be placed on developing infrastructure and managing regulations.



Seized Timber Up for Auction –The Khmer Times

More than $90,000 worth of luxury timber seized during National Anti-Deforestation Committee (NADC) raids in Stung Treng province will be up for public auction until July 29, the Ministry of Economic and Finance announced last week. Signed by ministry Undersecretary of State Soung Meng Kea, who chairs the subcommittee on tree and timber bidding, the announcement was released on Thursday. It said the 265 cubic-meter stockpile would be stored by the NADC in multiple locations in Stung Treng ahead of the auction.

 China Firm Now Eyes Power Lines –The Khmer Times

The Beijing-based PowerChina Resources Limited (PCR), a shareholder of Sinohydro Kamchay Hydroelectric Project Co. Ltd, which developed the Kamchay hydroelectric dam in Kampot, expressed its interest in building electricity transmission lines in Cambodia. This expression of interest was made when the director general of PCR, Du Chunguo, met the Kingdom’s Minister of Mines and Energy, Suy Sem, in Phnom Penh last week.



China Economy Ripples Into Laos –The Stewardship Report

A decade long mining boom, combined with a rapid development of hydropower, has seen Laos’ growth rate reach over 7 percent a year, allowing national output to more than double, generating some half a million jobs. A key player in the economic progress has been China. A recent World Bank report on the Lao economy noted China’s influence was continuing to grow.  China is the leading investor, with $6.7 billion in 760 projects from mining, to energy, agriculture, banking and trade as well as construction of commercial properties.

Under the Radar: Laos’ new PM pushes for regional integration –Global Risking Insights

Having assumed office in April, and as Laos chairs ASEAN for 2016, the country’s new Prime Minister, Thangloun Sisoulith has indicated his willingness to refresh relations with Laos’ neighbours. His predecessor, Thongsing Thammavong’s rule was marked by corruption, human rights abuses, and ill-advised efforts to borrow billions for massive infrastructure projects. Such projects often conflicted with the interests of fellow ASEAN members, notably Cambodia, with icy relations ensuing due to disputes over dam construction.

Company Uses Loophole in Lao Law to Grab Land in Savannakhet –RFA

A company is using a loophole in Laos’s land law to appropriate hundreds of hectares from the residents of three villages in the country’s southern Savannakhet province to build cattle farms, and villagers are having a hard time resisting the land grab because they failed to register the titles.

Vietnam, Laos discuss Vientiane-Hanoi expy project –VietnamNet Bridge

Representatives of Vietnam’s Ministry of Transport and the Lao Ministry of Public Works and Transport have discussed a major project to develop an expressway linking Hanoi and Vientiane as part of their five-year cooperation plan starting this year. The expressway is planned to start from Vientiane, passing through Laos’ Pakxan and Nghe An Province’s Thanh Thuy, and end in Hanoi.



Campaigners fight against the Myitsone dam –Mizzima

Just a few months before 2012 by-elections, a group of concerned citizens worried about the fate of Myitsone gathered together at a location overlooking the confluence of three rivers in Myitkyina, Kachin State. Thanks to public awareness campaigns launched by environmentalists, protest campaigns launched by CSOs, and media coverage about the dangers of the dam, protests against it construction were launched. At least six million people living along the Irrawaddy valley should be informed and educated on these projects. Then let them decide by themselves. Only with this sort of co-decision making power should dam projects be carried out, said Win Myo Thu; the writer of ‘Myitsone filled with traps’. (Read in Burmese on Mizzima or in English on Mizzima)

Myitsone and the failure of China’s ‘anti-ethno-politics’ approach –DVB

Northern Burma’s Myitsone mega-project failed because its Chinese proponents systematically dismissed Kachin and Burmese nationalism. The Chinese hydropower developers’ strategy was what I call “anti-ethno-politics”: when the state, NGOs, businesses, or other actors try to depoliticise sensitive questions about how their own activities clash with a nationalism. Such anti-ethno-politics is the Chinese government’s dominant approach to ethnic minorities and economic development in China. But it clearly failed in Burma. Why?

Shan MPs debate hydropower policy in parliament S.H.A.N via Burma News International

Following the suspension of the Nongpha Dam last week by Burma’s Ministry of Finance and Planning, several Shan politicians and activists have voiced concerns about other hydropower projects being carried out on the Salween River. Blueprints were originally laid down for six dams to be built on the Salween River in Burma. Ministry representative Soe Nyunt Lwin said that the government would have to look into the costs and benefits of such projects, and the impact they will have on people and the nation.

No New Irrigation Dams During Govt’s Term –The Irrawaddy

No new irrigation dams will be built during the tenure of the current government, and spending on existing facilities will be halved, says Deputy Minister of Agriculture, Livestock and Irrigation Tun Win. Burma now has more than 100 irrigation dams, and the ministry has questioned the benefits they provide to agricultural production and farmer’s welfare.

1,000 people evacuated in Latpadaung due to floods –DVB

Approximately a thousand people have been evacuated to safety from around 200 homes in Latpadaung, in Sagaing Division’s Salingyi Township, after flash floods caused the Chindwin River to overflow. Tontaw resident Myint Htay said the flooding was caused by the Wanbao Company, a Chinese copper mining firm with operations in the area. He said the mine was obstructing the natural flow of the river.

‘Conservation has to be inclusive’ –DVB (Interview)

Saw Alex Htoo is the deputy director of Karen Environmental and Social Action Network (KESAN). He grew up along the Salween River in Karen State. He talks to DVB about the current threats the people and wildlife are facing with new hydropower projects proposed in the area.

France to fund feasibility study for Myanmar’s 690-MW Laymyo hydropower project –Hydro World

The French government has agreed to provide US$1 million to help Myanmar perform feasibility studies for the 690-MW Laymyo hydroelectric plant. The cascade system is to include two powerhouses will be located in Myanmar’s Rakhine state. Reports indicate that the project has been in limbo for at least the past two years, when a new administration suspended it for lack of a clear federal energy development strategy.



‘University study excluded public participation’ –The Nation

More than 200 people showed up to a protest on Saturday over the Chao Phraya River promenade. They complained that a study team from King Mongkut’s Institute of Technology Lat Krabang (KMITL) had conducted an improper public hearing on the project. People from local communities and academics denounced the KMITL study team, saying that people’s right to decide on the project had been violated. (See also: Groups slam lack of say in Chao Phraya project –Bangkok Post)

Klity offers lessons for us all –Bangkok Post (Opinion)

A group of Karen villagers dressed in traditional costume and their representative lawyers clad in solemn suits hold their hands high in victory. These poor Karen villagers, who experienced devastating health problems or lost loved ones from lead poisoning after years of consuming water from a creek contaminated by untreated waste discharges by Kanchanaburi-based mining company Lead Concentrates (Thailand), have twice won a historic lawsuit.

Thailand considers buying more power from Laos –Bangkok Post

Thailand may buy 9,000 megawatts of electricity from Laos this year to ensure sufficient supply to meet rising demand, says a senior official at the Energy Ministry. That is nearly 30% higher than the the 7,000MW Thailand currently buys annually from Laos, according to the most recent memorandum of understanding (MoU) the two countries signed in 2007.



Thermal power plants endanger environment in Mekong Delta –VietnamNet Bridge

Head of the advisory team for strategic environmental assessment of 12 hydropower dams on the Mekong, has warned about the serious consequences of the Lee & Man paper plant in Hau Giang province. However, the plant is not the only threat to the Hau River. The Duyen Hai coal thermal power plant in Tra Vinh province, the processing & mechanical engineering industrial zone and a golf course project in Can Tho City all would damage the river.

Mekong Delta to get $1.3 bn for development –Vietnam News via The Nation

Seven credit organisations have committed to give the Mekong Delta region 28.5 trillion Vietnam dong (Bt45.6 billion) to implement 73 socio-economic development projects. As part of the Mekong Delta Economic Co-operation Forum 2016, the workshop on bank credit for the Mekong Delta region’s socio-economic development was an opportunity for localities, enterprises and experts to discuss credit policies in particular and banking activities in general to help the region’s development. (See also: SBV urges banks to support Mekong –Vietnam News)

Vice President addresses ECOSOC meeting –Vietnam News

Vice President Đặng Thị Ngọc Thịnh addressed a high-level segment of the United Nations Economic and Social Council (ECOSOC), emphasizing the need for a paradigm shift in development thinking. In her speech, she affirmed that the three dimensions of sustainable development – economic, social and environmental – were interlinked and interdependent, and that Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs) would only be achieved in an environment of peace and security on the basis of respect for international law.

Waste treatment project to be built in Phan Rang-Thap Cham –Vietnam Plus

The Prime Minister has agreed in principle to the signing of an agreement on receiving non-refundable aid from the Dutch Government to construct a system for wastewater collection, treatment and re-cycle in Phan Rang-Thap Cham city, the central province of Ninh Thuan. The Prime Minister asked the provincial People’s Committee to join hands with the Ministry of Planning and Investment, the Ministry of Finance and the Netherlands Enterprise Agency to sign the agreement to get the funding soon.



China woos Myanmar, tries to massage its public image –Myanmar Times

The long-term goal appears to be to recalibrate China’s relationship with an increasingly democratic neighbour that has suddenly acquired a global range of other options, many of them very attractive. “China wants Myanmar to understand that we can make money together,” he said, stressing his government’s policy of non-intervention in internal affairs. That was the message given by Foreign Minister Wang Yi to his counterpart, Daw Aung San Suu Kyi, when he visited Nay Pyi Taw last April.

In Myanmar, missteps or new directions? –The Nation (Opinion)

Foreign investors hoped that the NLD government would continue and indeed speed up the opening of this frontier economy started by the preceding administration. The Myanmar Investment Commission, which is responsible for approving foreign investment projects, have started to roll out the first batch of approvals for new foreign investments. Looking ahead, plans for export zones and industrial areas in and around Yangon – where much of the population resides and seek jobs – will likely be another priority. There are plans for 280-hectare economic zone in northern Yangon, and infrastructure projects such as roads and energy plants are also expected to get a boost in the coming months

USAID launches new $9M program to benefit civil society –The Phom Penh Post

USAID has launched a new five-year, $9 million program to support Cambodia civil society organisations. The Cambodian Civil Society Strengthening project will help civil society organizations by demonstrating how to establish proven management structures such as boards of directors, organizational lines of communication, standard operating procedures, and human resource management systems.

Reporters Without Borders ‘Concerned’ by Threats –Cambodia Daily

International media advocacy group Reporters Without Borders said it was concerned by what it characterized as a “surge” in threats against journalists and news organizations in Cambodia in recent weeks. The statement noted that such threats appeared to be on the rise in the wake of a July 7 report by Global Witness detailing the manifold business interests of Prime Minister Hun Sen and his family.

Thailand: Right to access information hangs in balance amid junta rule –Thomson Reuters Foundation via The Indian Express

Today, with Thai politics in turmoil after a decade of troubled elections, protests, two coups and now military rule, land rights campaigners fear the right to access information hangs in the balance. Thailand is set to hold a referendum for a new constitution in August. Section 41 of the draft constitution retains the right to access information, and the government says the new charter will not affect the existing law.

 Can You Put A Price Tag On Nature? Actually, Yes –Smithsonian Magazine

What’s natural capital? It’s the benefits nature provides, the good and services including clean water, clean air, flood control, and storm mitigation—irreplaceable services, The message is that investing in nature’s services is a cost-effective strategy with measurable returns. Governments, corporations and others are making nature a core part of business strategy to reduce risk and generate economic opportunity.



It’s Time for Development Banks to Start Listening –East Asia Forum

The aid community often ignores the wishes of the very people it’s supposed to be helping. The world needs a more bottom-up approach to development. Far more important than governments and international donors are the individuals and civic organizations that will help design, carry out, and monitor the development projects on which the whole scheme depends. Without vibrant civil societies, the Sustainable Development Goals are dead in the water.

The business of achieving the Sustainable Development Goals –Eco Business

The Sustainable Development Goals bring the global community together in a bid to end poverty and hunger, fight climate change, and achieve sustainable economic growth. How can businesses play their part in this universal effort, and what’s in it for them? 

Popularity of Big Hydropower Projects Diminishes Around the World Circle of Blue

Earlier this year, in an announcement that has become more routine around the world, Suy Sem, Cambodia’s minister of mines and energy, declared a moratorium on the construction of big hydropower dams until at least 2020. The global pivot away from big hydropower projects is consistent with trends that affect mining, big irrigation projects, and construction of coal-fired and nuclear power plants. Massive hydropower projects are an artifact of the water-intensive, resource-consuming global development strategy of the 20th century.

Flood of doubts: sceptical public questions Three Gorges Dam’s capacity to stop disastersSouth China Morning Post

Public doubts about the Three Gorges Dam’s role in flood control have resurfaced as communities along the Yantgze River, China’s longest waterway, battle the area’s worst floods since 1998. The floods have wreaked havoc in the east, leaving 237 people dead and another 93 missing. That is on top of the 69 people killed when Typhoon Nepartak hit Fujian province on July 9. More rain is forecast to hit the Yangtze River Basin this month, pushing flood defences to the ­limit 18 years after catastrophic floods in the vast catchment area took more than 4,000 lives.

How ‘Green’ Is Hydropower? –EcoWatch

According to the online magazine WaterWorld, “An expected 3,700 major dams may more than double the total electricity capacity of hydropower to 1,700 GW within the next two decades”. Hydropower is the most important and widely-used renewable source of energy,” the U.S. Geological Survey said. But how “green” is hydropower and how viable is it in a warming world with increasing water fluctuations and shortages? To some extent, it depends on the type of facility.




PAP will submit a report to regional Parliament on Kyauk Phyu – Kunming Gas Pipeline

The MP from Ann township in Rakhine State of Myanmar, Mr. Khin Maung Htay said, “He will submit a report about the impact of the gas pipeline to the regional parliament”. His committee had done several meetings and interviews with the PAP from the two township, Kyauk Phyu and Ann. Hundreds of acres of farm land have confiscated and spoiled by the project. The CNPC (China National Petroleum Corporation) and MOGE (Myanmar Oil and Gas Enterprise) has MOU the project, but it still has problems with compensation of Land, the village cemeteries, and the damage of cultural and religious places.



Thailand PM considers electricity production from Mekong River, approved 90M Baht for feasible study of Salween River diversion –Green News TV

Gen. Prayut ordered the Ministry of Interior to draft the guidelines for energy cooperation with neighboring countries with the aim of electricity generation from Mekong River. Gen. Prayut Ordered the Ministry of Energy, Ministry of the Interior and related agencies to determine the energy cooperation with neighboring countries, such as the use of water in the river for power generation, co-investment in power grid, considering suitable areas for operations, domestic electricity demand, and expected budget. In addition, the cabinet approved the allocated budget of 190 million THB for Royal Irrigation Department and Ministry of Agricultural and Cooperatives to conduct a feasible study on 3 project management guidelines for use of water resources between countries during 2016-2018 which include; 1. Project Review to increase water level in Bhumibol Dam by water diversion from Salween and Moei Rivers 2. Feasible study and environmental impact assessment for water resources development to support the special economic zone in Tak province and 3. Feasible study to alleviate flooding and drought in agricultural areas, and special economic zone in Sa Kaeo province.



BLOG: Active and Engaged: Indigenous Women Make Their Voices Heard with Cambodian Mining Company –MPE/Mekong Citizen

Women – especially indigenous women – are often the most vulnerable to the negative impacts of development projects. Sok Sreymom, an indigenous woman in Cambodia. is turning that vulnerability into active engagement with a mining company. MPE partner Development Partnership in Action (DPA) helps communities engage in Environmental Impact Assessment processes. And Sreymom’s community is a vivid example of how active engagement can minimize harms and improve outcomes – especially for indigenous women.

BLOG: A Journey through Siphandone: Microcosm of the Mekong International Rivers

Siphandone is a 50-kilometer stretch of the Mekong River. The physical landscape is clearly shaped by the river’s flow, but so are the lives of communities that are bound to the river. The many channels provide a basis for transportation and access; and a key route for fish migration, which is fundamental for the food security and livelihoods of communities in this area and throughout the Mekong River Basin. The river often dictates daily life.

REPORT: Needs Assessment for Effective Implementation of the Environmental Conservation Law in Myanmar –UNDP

This needs assessment identifies areas in Myanmar’s current environmental governance that should be strengthened to better respond to current and anticipated environmental challenges. The focus is on the effective implementation of the recent Environmental Conservation Law that provides the general legal framework for environmental conservation in Myanmar and the role of government.

REPORT: Biopower in Thailand, Market Outlook to 2030, Update 2016  –Open PR

“Biopower in Thailand, Market Outlook to 2030, Update 2016 ” is the latest report from GlobalData. The report provides an in-depth analysis on global renewable power market and global Biopower market with forecasts up to 2030. The report analyzes the power market scenario in Thailand (includes conventional Hydro, nuclear and renewable energy sources) and provides future outlook with forecasts up to 2030.

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: Mekong River Commission trains facilitators on use of hydropower sustainability assessment tool –Mekong River Commission

More than 20 researchers, consultants and project managers from the MRC countries, China and Myanmar, attended a two-day preliminary workshop to become facilitators in the application of the Rapid Basin-wide Hydropower Sustainability Assessment Tool (RSAT). RSAT is a multi-stakeholder assessment tool to identify development strategies, institutional responses, and management measures that could be applied to optimise the benefits and reduce the risks of hydropower projects.

PRESS RELEASE: Sulfuric acid factory behind health fears in Myanmar must be relocated –Amnesty International

The Myanmar government must immediately order the relocation of a sulfuric acid factory built dangerously close to a village, which is continuing to operate despite grave concerns over its health and environmental impact, said Amnesty International. Residents of Kankone village told Amnesty International on a recent research mission to Myanmar that they are suffering from strong-smelling factory emissions that are causing respiratory, skin and eye problems.


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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