By The Mekong Eye
Mekong Region, October 28, 2016
MEKONG NEWS DIGEST: Mekong Partnership for the Environment (MPE)
To October 27, 2016
Curated by The Mekong Eye. A weekly update of news, commentary and resources on Mekong development projects, investment, safeguards 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 4000 key development professionals, government officials, business leaders and journalists.
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Vanishing Mekong? Shifting tropical storms threaten a great river delta –Independent (Commentary)
River sediment represents a critical resource for building delta lands, reducing flooding and maintaining fertile soils. Sand mining is already reducing the sediment being delivered to the Mekong delta and further reductions are anticipated as a result of future damming upstream.
PM stresses economic, infrastructure connectivity in Mekong region –VietnamNet Bridge
Countries in the Mekong region should enhance their economic and infrastructure connectivity and particularly develop complete sub-regional economic corridors, said Prime Minister Nguyen Xuan Phuc at the World Economic Forum on the Mekong Region (WEF-Mekong) in Hanoi on October 25.
Chinese Investment Firm to Build $2B Food Processing SEZ –The Cambodia Daily
China’s Tianrui Group intends to break ground soon on a $2.1 billion special economic zone outside Phnom Penh that will be devoted to processing agricultural products for export. The investment holding company, which plans to be exporting goods by year’s end, signed a memorandum of understanding with the government on Wednesday morning at the Ministry of Agriculture.
Path to Responsible Mining –Khmer Times
In an effort to improve the governance of the Kingdom’s mining industry, with a focus on increasing revenue generation, the government has approved 11 articles largely concerning export permits for mined resources. The decree sets out a number of policies intended to better evaluate export permits.
Cambodia’s villagers lose ground – literally – to Singapore’s expansion –The Christian Science Monitor
Singapore is buying tens of millions of tons of sand for its land reclamation projects. Their dredging is destroying Cambodia’s coastal mangrove forests, and fishermen’s livelihoods with them. But the villagers are pushing back. Sand dredgers have deepened the shallow estuaries around this village by several meters. That has created strong currents which have eaten away at the riverbanks, destroying long stretches of mangrove.
Agro SEZ to grow China exports –The Phnom Penh Post
A Chinese firm plans to invest at least $2 billion into developing the Kingdom’s first special economic zone geared entirely for agro-processing and storage, with the sprawling zone’s factories and warehouses aimed at meeting the growing potential for Cambodia to export its agricultural produce to buyers in Asia’s biggest economy.
Laos discusses public participation in environmental impact assessment –Xinhau via Asia Pacific Daily
Lao government held a consultation on regional guidelines to ensure public participation in environment impact assessment (EIA) processes in capital Vientiane on Monday. More than 100 representatives from the private sector, companies, communities, civil society organizations, government agencies, and environmental impact assessment consulting firms gathered at the public consultation to provide feedback on the draft regional guidelines on public participation in EIA processes as a way to ensure that these processes involve communities.(See also: Govt Holds Landmark Meeting on Infrastructure Development –Lao News Agency and Govt, Civil Society Consult on Environmental Impact Assessments –The Laotian Times)
China-Laos railway to become a demonstration project –Vientiane Times
China-Laos railway will be built to become a demonstration project in “Go Global” strategy. The China-Laos railway has a total length of 414 km, linking Mohan-Boten border gate in northern Laos and capital Vientiane. The China-Laos railway is an important project in the “Belt and Road” initiative proposed by China.
PM announces continued suspension of mining concessions –Vientiane Times
Prime Minister Thongloun Sisoulith said the government will maintain the moratorium on new mining concessions because it needs more time to inspect a number of operations. The prime minister was speaking at a three-day conference taking place at the National Convention Centre for mining sector officials from around the country and private investors in the industry.
Lao Brewery Company Hit With Pollution Complaints –Vientiane Times
The Lao Brewery Co. may produce the country’s most popular beer, but the company is out of favor in the village neighboring its brewery in Vientiane, where residents there blame it for polluting the air and water. “There is a bad smell, and we cannot use the water in the marsh and canal because it is dirty,” a resident of the Salakham village told RFA’s Lao Service.
It has now been five years since the Myitsone Dam project was suspended, but local ethnic Kachin Mung Ra is still not satisfied. He wishes that the project had been entirely terminated. He frequently laments the loss of his farm and bamboo plantation—he had to leave these behind when he was forcefully relocated for the project.
Activist group opposes all dams on Thanlwin River –Eleven Myanmar
The Thanlwin River Watch Alliance said it will oppose any dam project on the Thanlwin River at a forum held in Taunggyi Township, Shan State. The alliance is composed of residents of Shan, Kayah, Kayin and Mon states and monitors projects on the river, which flows through the four states. Ethnic minority representatives and members of civil society organisations attended the forum.
In a country with forests under increasing threat, Myanmar’s southern Irrawaddy Delta is home to one last precious pocket of green: Wildlife Sanctuary. Although the Irrawaddy Delta plays host to the country’s largest remaining area of mangrove forest – 46 percent –, the unique trees are rapidly disappearing and the impact has been devastating.
Over 10,000 people in Kayin State in Myanmar have been displaced due to fighting over the Hat Gyi Dam construction site, as plans move forward to begin building on the Salween River. Activists have reported a human rights crisis in the area as more than 1,000 refugees have been trapped in two small villages near the border with Thailand and lack proper housing, basic facilities and food.
The former director general of the meteorology and hydrology department has proposed an alternative solution to the problem of the stalled Myitsone hydropower dam. Instead of building one destructive and publically reviled mega dam, why not build four smaller hydropower projects instead, he suggested.
Activists damn Salween plans –Frontier Myanmar
Campaigners say that plans for a series of dams on the Thanlwin River will force the relocation of tens of thousands of people, threaten the peace process and inundate pristine environments. Environmentalists are mobilising amid moves to accelerate controversial plans to build a series of dams on the Salween, the longest remaining free-flowing river in Southeast Asia.
Yangon govt rejects coal-fired power plant project –Eleven Myanmar
The Yangon Region minister for electricity, industry and transportation said during the parliamentary session that she did not approve the construction of a coal-fired power plant in Kyauktan Township. Minister Nilar Kyaw spoke in response to regional MP Thet Thet Mu of Kyauktan Constituency-2, who raised a question about the proposed project.
Residents fear restart of coal power plant –Myanmar Times
A coal-fired power plant in southern Shan State that was shut down two years ago due to residents’ complaints may be reopening, despite the opposition of the local community. Test operations at the plant were carried out on October 22, apparently in advance of a resumption of activity. The state government says the reopening of the plant depends on the results of the tests.
New Investment Law Enacted –The Irrawaddy
The long-awaited Myanmar Investment Law was signed into being by President U Htin Kyaw after both houses approved the bill earlier this month. The new law combines the Myanmar Citizens Investment Law and the Foreign Investment Law, rules and regulations including clear “dos and don’ts” for the business community are expected to be announced within a month of the new law.
Tests prove ethanol plant leak killed giant stingrays –Bangkok Post
The Pollution Control Department will sue Rajburi Ethanol Co for allowing molasses wastewater to leak into the Mae Klong River, killing many giant stingrays and other aquatic life. Director-general Wijarn Simachaya said that testing had shown that molasses wastewater leaked from the plant into the river in Ban Pong district of Ratchaburi polluting it and killing aquatic life, including many native giant stingrays, in Ratchaburi and Samut Songkhram provinces. (See also: PCD ready to sting ethanol firm with fine and Enforcement needs sting to save the rays –Bangkok Post)
King’s initiatives to be applied to national resource management –National News Bureau of Thailand
The government is determined to apply the royal technologies and initiatives to the country’s resource management. Water retention and supply systems have been enhanced in upstream, midstream and downstream provinces to ensure sufficient supplies for consumption, agriculture and the ecology. The government has in addition applied Agri Map to different aspects of agricultural development.
Thai Communities keen on Renewable Energy –NNT via Thai Visa
150 representatives of more than 30 communities from each region of Thailand are discussing how to make better use of renewable energy sources in their regions. “Thailand benefits from an abundance of renewable energy sources be it solar, bio-energy or wind. Renewable energy not only decreases carbon emissions it also creates local value which is in line with the “Energy 4.0” policy, which aims to generate revenue and reduce costs for people and communities in the country”.
Vietnam releases mixed dam audit –Vietnam Express International
Experts bin hundreds of small proposed hydropower dams while approving hundreds more. Vietnam concluded a three-year audit that ended hundreds of hydropower projects and green-lighted hundreds more. A recent government report said 471 small hydropower projects designed to produce less than 30 megawatts (MW) have been scrapped after determining the minor grid gains weren’t worth the environmental costs.
Scientists warn inshore water quality is deteriorating –VietNamNet Bridge
The General Department of Vietnam Sea and Islands said that Vietnam’s inshore water quality is still good, with most of the indexes meeting the Vietnamese standard. However, as influenced by estuary areas and receipt of waste from business activities in the coastal areas, some waters have been found having high total suspended solids (TSS)
The blacklist: Vietnam names and shames projects with high pollution risks –Vietnam Express International
Vietnam’s Ministry of Industry and Trade has announced projects which it considers are potentially risky to the environment. In a statement released, the ministry listed 28 plants which need “special monitoring”, with nearly half of them being coal-fired power projects invested by state power utility Electricity of Vietnam (EVN) and national oil and gas group PetroVietnam.
A Chinese firm has proposed building a zinc mill at an economic zone in the central Vietnamese province of Thua Thien-Hue, raising a few eyebrows among local experts and members of the public. The province’s deputy chairman, Nguyen Van Phuong, confirmed that Beijing Fuda Industry Co. Ltd. had revealed its plan to the local administration in a recent meeting.
Coal thermal power plants affecting rice production in Mekong Delta –VietNamNet Bridge
Under the national electricity development plan, coal thermal power will make up 50 percent of Vietnam’s total electricity output from 2020. The Mekong River Delta will become one of the nation’s thermal power centers. The expert warned that the thermal power production will bring risks and challenges. Vietnam will have to import coal, which means that it will depend on the world prices.
Should the World Bank Group be held accountable when financial institutions it supports invest in projects that threaten forests and communities? After tracing the Group’s links to controversial projects like the Rampal coal power station, the activists behind a new report say, “Yes.” A report by human rights groups identified 41 new coal projects with ties to the World Bank Group. These projects are funded by private banks and companies that have received loans and investment from the International Finance Corporation (IFC), part of the World Bank Group.
The Earth’s thirst for power is teetering toward crisis in an era of increasing water scarcity where nine of its largest operating power plants are hydroelectric. As the countries work to balance the energy trilemma and provide secure, affordable and environmentally sustainable energy, the link between energy and water and the rising demands for both are stressing resources.
In Vietnam, telling the truth is criminal ‘propaganda’ –The Washington Post
Most recently, Ms. Quynh had been blogging extensively about a chemical spill that devastated marine life and left fishermen and tourism industry workers jobless in four provinces. In June, a Taiwanese-owned company acknowledged it was responsible for the pollution and pledged to clean it up, but the spill has provoked protests by Vietnamese who criticize the government for remaining silent about the cause of the spill at the outset and then failing to provide information about health and environmental dangers. When taken into custody, Ms. Quynh was accused of publishing “propaganda” against the state.
Vietnam set to enhance cooperation with Mekong countries –Tuoi Tre News
High-ranking officials from countries in the Mekong sub-region, including Vietnam, have agreed to strengthen mutual co-operation in preparation for upcoming international summits. The main focus of the Senior Official Meeting is on the cooperation between member nations in six prioritized fields, namely trade and investment, human resources development, agriculture, industry, traffic, and tourism.
China’s Dam Building Spree in Tibet: Strategic Implications and India’s Options – Analysis –Eurasia Review
Recent reports have pointed to China blocking the Xiabuqu tributary of the Yarlung Zangpo River for a dam project. The construction of the dam as part of the Lalho hydroelectric project at Xigaze, the project has been viewed with concern in India, which is a lower riparian state. the construction of the dam on the Xiabuqu could emerge as another irritant between India and China. Beijing’s elaborate plans to harness the waters of the rivers in Tibet have serious strategic and socio-economic implications for India.
Report reveals a big dependence on freshwater fish for global food security –University of Wisconsin -Madison News
Freshwater fish play a surprisingly crucial role in feeding some of the world’s most vulnerable people, according to a study in the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences. By creating a map of the world’s fisheries documenting where people catch freshwater fish at the highest rates, and then linking it to data about fish biodiversity, ecosystem health, and human nutrition and socioeconomics, Pete McIntyre’s team hopes the study helps put freshwater fish on the radar for decision-makers around the globe.
LOCAL LANGUAGE NEWS
Local people worry over the Coal-fired power plant –Eleven News
Local people from Shan state, Pa-O special administrative region, worry over the Tigyit coal-fired power plant as it starts running on October 21. The local said the noise and smokes from the plant make them worried that it could get worse their health and resources soon. Wu Shi Wa Gwang Co., Ltd. lease the plant from the Ministry of Electricity and Energy. The CSOs and community from the Shan state has protest against the project for several times; sent the petition to union government and regional government.
On 14 October, at the community gathering meeting in Taunggyi Shan State, Salween Watch released a statement that they are against any dam projects on Salween River. “the government need to listen the community voices. There is no transparency in EIA/SIA processes, and the EIA consultants do all the assessment not in an informed and transparent ways”, said Ko Moe, the Shan state representative of EITI Myanmar. The Salween Watch is a network of CSOs/CBOs and affected community members from four states along the Salween River of Myanmar – Shan, Kaya, Kayin and Mon state of Myanmar.
The construction and extension of Thilawa SEZ, Phase B, could be delayed. “The government of Myanmar need to settle the land problems with the communities, those are living in these areas”, said Mr. Takashi, the CEO of the Myanmar Japan Thilawa Development Co., ltd. Mr. Myint Zaw from MJDTC said that they are still negotiating with the affected communities, and it could settle soon. Mr Takahsi said that MJDTC is working with JICA and Mynmar government to settle all project related problems according to JICA and Japanese government’s rules and regulation.
One of the members of the Regional Technical Working Group on EIA, Ms. Naw Ei Ei Min, the director of POINT, said that “Public participation is crucial in EIA process to have benefit for all stakeholders, the government, project proponent, and the community”. The problems related with infrastructure development projects and EIA processes has addressed in this guidelines. “This guideline was developed by the policy makers and practitioners, and it was drafted from the public perspective. But form our country perspective, the guideline need to address the problems facing today, civil war, resource sharing and governance. So, in this sense, Myanmar need its own national guideline. I believe this regional guideline could benefit every stakeholder”, Ms. Naw Ei Ei Min continued.
Anti-coal network to march to the Parliament –Green News TV
Save Andaman from Coal Network has declared its next move to march on Sunday 30 October to the national parliament. They will again call for cancellation of Krabi coal-fired power plant project, and develop a 3-year plan for a complete transformation to renewable energy economy, the same demands that EGAT has ignored since the last protest. “We will not leave until these demands are met,” said the network coordinator.
RESOURCES & PRESS RELEASES
Last chance: ANNOUNCEMENT: Online Consultation: Regional Guidelines for Public Participation in Environmental Impact Assessment (EIA) –The Regional Technical Working Group on EIA/Mekong Partnership for the Environment
Citizens of Mekong and other countries are invited to comment on the draft Regional Guidelines on Public Participation in EIA. These guidelines have been developed by regional government and civil society partners to provide practical guidance for implementing meaningful public participation in order to enhance the efficiency and effectiveness of the EIA process, while reducing risks for all stakeholders. Reminder: Comment deadline: Oct. 31. Additional versions in Khmer, Lao, Burmese, Thai, and Vietnamese are available online.
PRESS RELEASE: Landmark public consultations on infrastructure development held in Vientiane –Mekong Partnership for the Environment via the Mekong Eye
A landmark public consultation in Laos on the draft Regional Guidelines on Public Participation in Environmental Impact Assessment (EIA) was held in Vientiane. More than 100 representatives from private sector companies, communities, non-profit associations, international organizations, government agencies, environmental impact assessment consulting firms gathered today at a public consultation in Vientiane to provide feedback on draft Regional Guidelines on effective Public Participation in Environmental Impact Assessment processes as a way to ensure these processes involve communities.
ARTICLE: Watershed or Powershed? Critical Hydropolitics, China and the ‘Lancang-Mekong Cooperation Framework’ –The International Spectator
Three ‘powersheds’, conceptualised as physical, institutional and political constructs that connect dams to major power markets in China, Thailand and Vietnam, are transforming the nature. This is epitomised by the ‘Lancang-Mekong Cooperation’ framework, a new initiative led by China that proposes programs on both economic and water resource development, and anticipates hydrodiplomacy via China’s dam-engineered control of the headwaters.
STORํY: Brutal attack stiffens Cambodian woman’s resolve to protect forest –Oxfam America
An environmental defender survives injury, and is more committed than ever. Phorn Sopheak was sick with a fever when she went into the Prey Lang forest in central Cambodia on a regular patrol to make sure illegal loggers were not cutting down trees. The 26-year-old was sleeping in her hammock at 1:30 in the morning when one of her friends saw someone with a flashlight approach her. A moment later, Sopheak woke up: She had been brutally slashed in the foot with an ax or machete and was bleeding heavily.
BLOG: A Visit to the Mother River –International Rivers
The Mekong, which local people call their Mother River (or Mae Khong), is central to Chiang Khong’s way of life. But In the past 20 years, Chinese dam builders have blocked the flow of the river with seven large dams north of the Thai-Lao border. The dams have replaced the natural river flow with artificial water releases that fluctuate wildly and unpredictably. These changes are upsetting the delicate balance of the river. The Mekong fish depend on the ecological cues that the natural flow has always provided for the stages of their life cycle, and many of them can’t cope with the new artificial regime. According to local researchers, the fish catch has declined by as much as 70% in many places.
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