By The Mekong Eye
Mekong Region, August 17, 2016
MEKONG NEWS DIGEST: Mekong Partnership for the Environment (MPE)
To August 17, 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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New Mekong dams to affect millions in Vietnam –Al Jazeera via the Global Herald (Video)
Building more dams along the Mekong River will destroy the livelihoods of millions of people, according to a report commissioned by the Vietnamese government. It also says plans to construct new dams will damage crops with salt water intrusion, particularly in the south where the Mekong finishes its journey. Laos is forging ahead with the first of at least nine dams on the mainstream of the Mekong and it has many more on tributaries. Vietnam had called for a ten-year moratorium on mainstream dam construction, but was ignored. Opponents believe there hasn’t been enough transparency surrounding the deals and it’s the people who will suffer, particularly those living on the delta.
The Swiss government, through its Swiss Agency for Development and Cooperation (SDC), has granted more than US$7 million to the Mekong River Commission to implement its overall work, which covers areas such as climate change and adaptation, flood and drought management; and sustainable hydropower. The contribution is to support the MRC’s work as it implements its new five-year strategic plan (2016-2020). The new financial system allows the MRC Secretariat to use existing funds for any of its prioritised activities, therefore addressing emerging needs timely and improving the implementation of projects that benefit more than 60 million people in the region.
Oil firm ready to push ahead with offshore drilling –The Phnom Penh Post
KrisEnergy Ltd is moving closer to finalising its deal with the Cambodian government that will pave the way for extraction from the Block A offshore oil field once negotiations over a technical strategy and fiscal regime have been finalised. The Secretary of State at the Ministry of Mines and Energy (MME) said the deal would bring greater confidence to Cambodia’s potential energy sector because it would show foreign investors that the Kingdom can negotiate fair and transparent deals.
Five Vietnamese Arrested for Mining –The Khmer Times
In an effort to stop an illegal mining operations in Rattanakiri province, authorities on Friday arrested five Vietnamese nationals believed to be involved, police said. Provincial police chief said that his officials were investigating how the Vietnamese men were able to illegally mine for gold in the country. The official told Khmer Times that the arrests happened after a raid of the mining site in Paknhai commune and police seized a car and some equipment that was used to dig for gold.
In the second part of a special series on deforestation in Cambodia, Jack Board travels to an area where locals are upset that forest trees are being cleared – to make way for a timber plantation. A densely forested swathe of land in the now largely protected Prey Lang, meaning “our forest”, was handed over to the company in 2010, for development as a designated plantation area.
The region’s most diminutive nation Laos has been at the center of this revolution, posting significant increases to generation capacity by harnessing the energy from the many rivers that run down from its mountainous regions before joining the Mekong that flanks the country to the west for most of passage from the country’s north to south. The lessons learnt among operators in Laos are now ready to be shared as fellow Mekong-side nation of Myanmar is progressing with its own aspirations for the development of its own vast hydropower potential.
The project is called Xelanong 2 and is foreseen to generate 35 megawatts of power, or 140,700 megawatts of electricity annually. In the statement, Gezhouba said that Xelanong 2 will be located at one of the tributaries of the Mekong River. The hydropower station with the dam has a height of 55 meters. Construction will take 41 months and the total cost is $7.86 million. It will be a build-operate-transfer (BOT) project. Lin Boqiang, director of the Center for Energy Economics Research at Xiamen University, said that the hydropower plant will bring significant benefits to the Lao economy.
Laos is still in need of support from partners to push progress in the natural resources and environmental management sector, representatives from development partners, line departments of the Ministry of Natural Resources and Environment heard in Vientiane. Minister of Natural Resources and Environment, delivered the message at a meeting of the natural resources and environment working group. The Minister said the meeting would be the first of Natural Resources and Environment Sector Working Group for 2016 which is set to contribute to the first year for the implementation of the 8th National Socio-Economic Development Plan.
US$65-million riverside project set to begin construction –Vientiane Times via The Nation
A US$65-million-plus Mekong River Integrated Management Project in Pakxe town, Champassak province is set to begin construction at the end of this year. The project comprises four components including the construction of an embankment along the Mekong and Xedon rivers which totals over 16 km in length. Other components include the construction of a 2 km road, a 10.6-hectare public park which will be the first one ever to be built in the province, and a drainage system. The whole project is expected to take five years to complete with a total cost amounting over US$65.6 million.
Burma’s peace process and the controversial Myitsone Dam will be on the agenda when Aung San Suu Kyi, Burma’s foreign affairs minister, visits China this week and meets with Chinese leaders. Burma’s President Htin Kyaw formed a new 20-member commission to evaluate all proposed hydropower projects on the Irrawaddy River—including the Myitsone Dam. The commission will assess the potential environmental and social effects of proposed projects, their possible impact on foreign investment and the wider economy, and potential losses in water resources set alongside public access to electricity.
(See also: Myitsone looms large ahead of China meet –Myanmar Times and Hopefully Suu Kyi’s China visit will show positive attitude toward Myitsone dam –Global Times)
According to a presidential order issued Aug. 12 by the Myanmar government, a commission will form to examine the 6,000-MW Myitsone hydropower project proposed for Kachin, Mynamar. Locally published reports indicate when complete, Yunnan China would receive much of the energy from the facility under the project’s original agreement. Concerns over environmental impacts and whether Myanmar would have first choice of how much power it would receive led to the project’s cancellation.
(See also: Hydropower projects in Kachin to be reviewed –Myanmar Times and Myitsone dams commission formed to assess controversial project –Burma News International)
Myanmar pushes for more hydropower projects –Myanmar Times via The Nation
The Permanent Secretary at the Ministry of Electric Power, said there is a need that Myanmar proceeds with planned hydropower projects. Hydropower projects would be implemented on the Thanlwin (Salween) River, he said, urging people to support their implementation. “Coal-fired projects were suspended as people didn’t accept those projects. That’s why hydropower projects are needed because the cost of the projects is far lower. I urge the public to support the hydropower projects,” said the Secretary “We will try to use few natural resources and have limited environmental impact.”
Time for transparency on Kyaukphyu SEZ –Frontier Myanmar
Scrutiny is lacking and human rights obligations are being ignored as development of the Kyaukphyu Special Economic Zone moves ahead. Although Myanmar’s new civilian-led government has said little about the future of controversial, large-scale foreign investments, some projects are gaining ground without adequate public consultation and oversight. Among them is the Kyaukphyu Special Economic Zone, a China-backed project in Rakhine State.
Thilawa Zone B to start in November –The Nation
Construction of Thilawa special economic zone B will begin this November on 700 hectares of land, an official responsible for the project said. Development of the second stage of the country’s first economic zone will begin with infrastructure including roads, electricity and water, said U Myint Zaw, general manager of Myanmar Japan Thilawa Development Limited. Meanwhile the smaller Zone A is around 90 percent complete, with US$760 million in foreign investment committed to the project across 400 hectares of land. The project is located to the south of Yangon.
Hundreds of Chiang Mai people Monday rallied at the centre of Chiang Mai city in a rare show of unity among citizens of all political hues to protest a development project that would destroy nine rai of public green space. The rally was organised by more than 30 civic organisations representing citizens’ groups that include local communities, schools, environmental groups, and religious organisations across multiple faiths.
Thailand’s power sector urged to tighten policies on energy security –Thailand Construction News
Thailand’s power market and institutional structure aligns well with its strong commitment to electricity security. Thus states the International Energy Agency in its “Thailand Electricity Security Assessment 2016.” There, it goes on to state that power sector development plans are best developed in an open, transparent fashion, where responsible parties are given sufficient capacity and an appropriate level of independence. As long as policy goals are clearly articulated and responsibilities clearly delineated, the resulting plan should strike an appropriate balance between security, economy and environment.
Border commerce tipped to grow by 15% –Bangkok Post
The private sector expects the value of Thailand’s cross-border trade to grow by 15% this year. Cross-border trade prospects are expected to flourish once the government’s planned special economic zones (SEZs) start up, Mr Niyom said. SEZ development is a major policy aimed at boosting investment and trade in border areas. The government decided two years ago to set up industrial estates in SEZs in 10 provinces for the purposes of agriculture, industry, logistics and tourism.
Vietnamese farmers indignant as Mekong Delta prays for flood waters to arrive –Vietnam Express International
Chinese hydropower dams on the Mekong River are taking a heavy toll on people living downstream. Fishermen in Vietnam’s Mekong Delta have been complaining about lower water levels and falling catches with experts blaming China’s construction of hydropower projects on the upper Mekong River. Due to the effects of the El Nino phenomenon along with upstream dams, the Mekong Delta has been hit with its worst drought and saltwater intrusion in nearly 100 years. Farmers lament that the dams have greatly reduced the amount of silt flowing from upstream to the delta.
Mekong Delta: enterprises dodge environmental regulations –VietNamNet Bridge
Despite warnings and punishments, enterprises have been using sophisticated methods to ignore regulations, damaging the environment and putting rivers in the Mekong Delta at risk. The Can Tho City People’s Committee has released a decision on imposing a fine of VND900 million on Huy Viet – Tay Do Production & Trade Company for discharging untreated waste water to the Hau River.
Vietnam’s vision for a renewable energy future –East Asia Forum
In recent decades, Vietnam’s demand for energy has increased along with its rapid economic development. This surge in demand could provide the impetus to develop Vietnam’s emerging renewable energy industry. To meet increasing power demand, Vietnam’s Power Master Plan VII projects its output will need to increase to 194–210 billion kilowatt hours (kWh) in 2015, to 330–362 billion kWh in 2020, and to 695–834 billion kWh in 2030. As renewable sources are part of Vietnam’s energy mix, surging power demand will also boost the demand for renewable energy.
Over 50 businesses at an industrial cluster in the Mekong Delta province of Long An have been discharging their untreated wastewater into the environment over the past decade with little interference and no firm resolution from local authorities. Along streets leading to the factories, sewage pipes deposit raw wastewater from processing facilities in plain view, releasing disturbing smells into the surrounding atmosphere.
Vietnamese scientists have warned of the unusual increase in the depth of two major rivers in the Mekong Delta, with sand mining and hydropower dams said to be the cause. According to experts, instead of being accreted, the 250-kilometer long Tien (Front) River and 200-kilometer Hau (Back) River have become five to seven meters deeper since 2008.
The lack of cooperation from China and its erratic methods of water storage and discharge has placed Vietnam in a passive mode when using water from the Red River. Meanwhile, in the upper course, China now runs tens of hydropower plants, 1,870 dams and nine reservoirs with total capacity of 200 million cubic meters. These have all caused big changes to the water volume, the current flow regime, water quality and the sediment of the river.
Needless: Critics pan plan to build $154-mln airport in An Giang –Thanh Nien News
The Ministry of Transport’s plan to build an airport in the Mekong Delta province of An Giang has been labeled by critics as unnecessary. Many experts said another airport would be unnecessary in the delta because two others had to cancel several routes due to low demand.
(See also: Proposed $152mn Mekong Delta airport project faces objections –Tuoi Tre News)
Taekwang eyes second thermal power plant in Vietnam –Vietnam Investment Review
Korea’s Taekwang Power Holdings, which is the investor of Nam Dinh 1 thermal power plant, is keen to add a coal-fired power project in central Quang Tri province to their list of Vietnamese investments. General director of Taekwang Power Holdings met with Quang Tri authorities, expressed the firm’s interest in the Quang Tri 2 thermal power project in the Quang Tri Southeast Economic Zone.
HCM City explores high-tech waste treatment plan –Vietnam Plus
HCM City plans to reduce burying of solid wastes and improve waste treatment technologies by 2030, the Department of Natural Resources and Environment has said. The department’s deputy head said that the department and other relevant agencies said that they are exploring advanced burning technologies for waste treatment such as pyrolysis and plasma gasification, and are looking for vendors. Vo Thanh Nhan of the District 6 Natural Resources and Environment Division said the city should have policies to ensure the public and collectors benefit when they carry out the classification and collection.
Governments can further expand and finance their social protection programs through an increased focus on and commitment to infrastructure investment, according to Naoyuki Yoshino, dean of the Asian Development Bank Institute. Infrastructure investments always come with risk, but provide governments and other development stakeholders high rewards if implemented effectively, according to the head of the Tokyo-based institution.
A survey by the United Nations Development Program (UNDP), released in a meeting between HCM City authorities on August 8, revealed that Saigon residents have to offer bribes for land ownership certificates. The UNDP study was entitled “Indicators of governance and public administration effectiveness at provincial level in Vietnam – Measurement from the people’s experience”. From 2009-2015, nearly 75,000 people in 63 provinces and cities across the country were surveyed.
The changing face of Japan-Asean aid –The Straits Times via The Nation
Tokyo is moving to help countries build up their military capacity as Beijing flexes its muscles in the South China Sea. Japan’s foreign aid toolkit has been expanding since Prime Minister Shinzo Abe took office in December 2012, as he seeks to shore up Japan’s influence in Southeast Asia in the face of muscle-flexing by China. This charm offensive has gone beyond traditional “soft power” measures, such as extending infrastructure support and human resource development, to include military capacity-building.
The Key to Jumpstarting Myanmar’s Economy: Electricity –The Diplomat
It’s no secret that the National League for Democracy (NLD) faces myriad challenges in improving Myanmar’s socioeconomic situation. In fact, its biggest challenge might be deciding which issues to address first. One major factor that it currently lacks, which is crucial for foreign investment and economic development, is a comprehensive and reliable national electrical grid.
Last week, in a stunning turn of events, Brazil’s environmental agency IBAMA definitively shelved plans to carve the São Luiz do Tapajós mega-dam into the heart of the Amazon. Deeming the project a socio-environmental liability for its devastating impacts upon the lands and way of life of the Munduruku people, IBAMA’s bold move could reflect a major shift away from disastrous mega-projects like the Belo Monte dam. However, the Amazon and its traditional communities confront a rising tide of existential threats. Only the continued vigilance of frontline defenders and their allies will guarantee that this watershed achievement transforms into enduring protection of the Amazon.
China’s best preserved forests in south-west China’s Yunnan province are under threat from illegal mining, according to a new report. The study by Greenpeace shows mining and industry activity in the Three Parallel Rivers of Yunnan protected area is destroying pristine forests in one of the world’s most biodiverse regions. The researchers combined remote sensing data and field visits to show mining is leading to deforestation, water pollution and habitat loss in the mountains of north-west Yunnan on the eastern foothills of the Himalayas.
Brazil, Rio Sewage is One of Many Water Challenges –Circle of Blue
With the 2016 Summer Olympic Games well underway in Rio de Janeiro, the contamination of the city’s waterways with raw sewage has earned the international sporting event the vivid, if ungracious, epithet “Poop Olympics. The condition of Guanabara Bay and other waterways in Rio is certainly deplorable. A study released by the Associated Press this month found high levels of adenovirus at Gloria Marina, on the bay’s western shore, and at Rodrigo de Freitas Lagoon, an inland lake that hosts the rowing competitions. Nearly 90 percent of the sites tested over a 16-month period registered infectious strains of the virus, which can cause diarrhea and respiratory problems.”
China’s and Russia’s intentions for the Amur River Basin will continue to be fundamentally at odds: Moscow wants to use it for transport and security, while Beijing wants to harness its power for energy and agriculture. Political borders define countries and set imperatives, constraints and strategies. Water systems shared by neighboring countries, including the Tigris and the Euphrates, the Mekong and the Rio Grande, often foster a similar dynamic. Almost always, one nation holds the advantage, whether because of economic prowess or simply priority access to the water.
LOCAL LANGUAGE NEWS
Though the government has approved the Lower Sesan 2 Dam project, affected villagers in Stung Treng province continue to rally against it. They want authorities to reconsider plans for the hydropower dam. VOA Khmer’s Say Mony reports from northern Cambodia in Stung Treng province. The villagers living along the Sesan river in Stung Treng province say they do not want to see the Lower Sesan 2 dam erected on the river, where generations of Cambodians have supported families by fishing and rice farming. Noy Phut is a fisherman here in Srek Kor village of Sesan district. He says if built, the dam would disrupt his ability to support his family by fishing. “Of course, there will be nothing,” Noy Phut said.
On August 15th 2016, 20 Indigenous people communities (Phnong) in Keo Sima protected area in Mondulkiri had a meeting with WCS and government official from MoE to discuss about carbon Redd+ or Carbon Credit to continue their discussion about biodiversity protection in the protected area and using fund from Carbon Credit to develop communities in the protected area. Disney company, on August 11th 2016, has signed a two-year agreement with Cambodian Government through Ministry of Environment to buy Carbon Redd+ from Keo Sima protected area with amount of 2.6 million USD.
On August 11, 2016, signing ceremony on Carbon Redd+ for Keo Saima protected area at the Ministry of Environment, H.E Say Samal, Minister of Environment, said in front of the MoE government officials and US Ambassador, private companies, NGOs and International NGOs and journalists that he devotes his political life for forest and wildlife conservation in Cambodia, while illegal logging and illegal wildlife trading have been concerned seriously. The Minister also suggests all relevant stakeholders even local communities working and collaborating together to ensure effective conservation and sustainable natural resources management.
“the uncontrolled productions for natural resources, especially the over logging of rain forests in Myanmar, for the private benefits are the major causes of current flooding and environmental problems, we are facing today”, Dr. Khun Taung Win discussed at the Upper House of the Parliament on 8th August in Naypyitaw, Myanmar. Myanmar is losing 546000 hectors of forest per year. The reason is due to illegal logging in Chinese border regions. “According to the Chinese sources, from 1997 to 2002, 88% of the imported timber came from Myanmar border regions”, he continued.
Since the beginning of the construction, the local communities never have failed to protest against the coal-power cement plant in Kyite Ma Yaw township, in Mon State. . “A third part consultant has done all assessments and it has been approved during the former government term. So, the project will continue as they have got the agreement”, said Mr. Saw Kyaw Win Maung of the Kyite Ma Yaw township MP. The 400 Million Dollar plant is joint ventured by Pacific Link Cement Industries Ltd. (30% of Share) and Siam Cement Group (70% of Share) from Thailand and it will run for 25 years, 2011 to 2036.
Myanmar Will Build its First Energy Plant from Waste –Builders Guide
The first Myanmar Waste-to-Energy plant will be built in Shwe Pyi Thar Industrial Zone in Yangon with the help of Japanese government. The Japanese JFE Engineering hopes it could finish in 2017. The Japanese government support 8.2 millions and YCDC (Yangon City Development Committee) invests 8 millions of USD. It could produce 700KW of electricity. The plant will use 400KW to burn 70 metric tons of waste every day and support 300KW to the main grid. It could reduce 4600 tons of CO2 emission per year.
RESOURCES & PRESS RELEASES
WEBINAR: MPE Webinar Series Session on “Win-Win Solutions from Public Participation in Environmental Impact Assessment (EIA)” –Mekong Partnership for the Environment/AECEN
Following the success of the MPE webinar Series, the Mekong Partnership for the Environment (MPE) and the Asian Environmental Compliance and Enforcement Network (AECEN) are pleased to invite you to join our next MPE Webinar Series Session on “Win-Win Solutions from Public Participation in Environmental Impact Assessment (EIA)” on Tuesday, 30 August 2016 at 10:15 – 11:45 hrs (UTC+7:00) Bangkok Time. The fourth session of the webinar is designed to provide an opportunity to understand how public participation can avoid community conflict and improve project proposal.
For more information and registration, please contact email@example.com by Wednesday, 24 August 2016.
NEWS: “Kong – Loei – Chi – Mun” Mega Project and Experts Concerns –VietNamNet via the Mekong Eye
“Kong-Loei-Chi-Mun” project of Thailand aims to divert Mekong water to tunnels under Loei river, storing at the reservoirs of Huai Luang and Ubol Rattana and transferred to Thailand northeastern provinces for irrigation. Once operates, it will take half amount of water from the mainstream Mekong River. Currently, the Mekong Delta provinces are facing saline water intrusion as a result of low water levels in the Mekong River. Cambodia and Lao PDR are also plan for similar water diversion projects. If the Kong-Loei-Chi-Mun and similar projects will be implemented in Cambodia and Lao PDR, the volume of flood water to Vietnam’s Mekong River Delta area will be significantly reduced. Furthermore, climate change and El Nino phenomenon will make the issue even more challenging.
PRESS RELEASE: ASEAN Member States gather in Ho Chi Minh City to share experiences on agricultural insurance for coping with climate impacts in Southeast Asia –The Stockholm Environment Institute
Members of the ASEAN Climate Resilience Network (ASEAN-CRN) will discuss their experiences with agricultural insurance schemes to support farmers in dealing with climate change impacts on 16-19 August 2016 in Ho Chi Minh City, Vietnam. This knowledge exchange event will bring together policy-makers, scientists, practitioners, and private companies from ASEAN Member States and beyond who are engaged in developing agricultural insurance products and related policies. Several sessions will showcase ongoing work with insurance in Southeast Asia. Participants will also discuss opportunities for regional cooperation on these issues across ASEAN. In addition, they will explore how insurance might be used to address new risks arising from climate change, including slow-onset events such as the gradual salination of groundwater in coastal areas due to saltwater intrusion. Journalists are welcome to attend the full event and may be able to join the field trip, but are asked to please contact the organizers in advance. For more information, please contact firstname.lastname@example.org
BLOG: Myanmar has set a path to a bright energy future by 2030 –The World Bank
Today, two-thirds of Myanmar’s population is not connected to the national electricity grid and 84% of rural households lack access to electricity. Access to reliable and affordable energy is essential for a country’s development, job creation, poverty reduction and shared prosperity goals. The Government of Myanmar has developed a National Electrification Plan (NEP) to bring electricity to every community in Myanmar by 2030 – 7.2 million new household and business connections. The plan aims to achieve 50% electricity access by 2020, 75% by 2025, and universal access by 2030 through the extension of the national grid as well as off-grid solar home systems and mini-grids in rural communities. By joining the United Nations Sustainable Energy for All (SEFA) initiative and adopting the NEP, Myanmar has a path to securing a bright energy future.
PRESS RELEASE: Large Scale Hydropower Dams and Climate Change: Threats to People’s Livelihoods and Responsibility of the ASEAN community –The NGO Forum on Cambodia
A thematic workshop on “Large Scale Hydropower Dams and Climate Change: Threats to People’s Livelihoods and Responsibility of the ASEAN Community” was organized on August 4, 2016 at Timor – Leste through a platform of ASEAN Civil Society Conference / ASEAN People’s Forum 2016. There are 62 delegates (21 women) from civil society organizations in ASEAN countries and development partners from other countries were participated. One of the main objectives were focused on awareness raising on transboundary issues of hydropower dams on the Mekong mainstream and tributaries, including Don Sahong, Xayaburi in Laos and Lower Sesan 2 in Cambodia.
PUBLICATION: Making Inroads: Chinese Infrastructure Investment in ASEAN and Beyond –The Heinrich Böll Stiftung
Inclusive Development International (IDI) released Making Inroads: Chinese Infrastructure Investment in ASEAN and Beyond, its new report that seeks to shed light on the rapidly changing landscape of infrastructure finance in the region which has been driven by China. This publication seeks to increase public awareness of these institutions and initiatives, how they will potentially impact on local communities and the environment, and what environmental and social standards and governance systems they have adopted. It also discusses strategies that civil society groups could deploy to respond to these developments and influence the policies, projects and operations of Chinese-led finance institutions.
ARTICLE: Myanmar Rising: Industrial and Special Economic Zones –HKTD Research
Differences in logistics and infrastructure support, as well as varying investment benefits, are prime considerations for factory locations. When choosing a location for their production plants in Myanmar, Hong Kong companies engaged in labour-intensive industries such as garment or footwear manufacturing may consider setting up their factories inside one of the country’s industrial zones or Special Economic Zones (SEZs) in order to benefit from the specific investment incentives offered by the Myanmar government, along with other advantages such as better infrastructure and logistics support.
ARTICLE: Land rights: targets, expectations and tools for businesses –CSR Asia
The International Federation for Human Rights (IFHR) recently stated that Southeast Asia is facing increasing conflicts and violence over land grab activity. Land grab relates to speculation and illegal and unethical transfer of lands, small and large. IFHR says the situation is particularly pronounced in Cambodia, where land grabbing has displaced more than 800,000 people since 2000. Whilst some leading multinational companies recognise and are beginning to address land rights and related issues, in most countries, big gaps remain in preventing land grabs and their detrimental social and development impacts.
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