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Mekong Eye News Digest: 09 November 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.

By The Mekong Eye

Mekong Region, November 9, 2016

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

To November 09, 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 4500 key development professionals, government officials, business leaders and journalists.

 

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MEKONG DEVELOPMENT DEVELOPMENT CONTEXT GLOBAL CONTEXT LOCAL LANGUAGE NEWS  RESOURCES & PRESS RELEASES

 

MEKONG DEVELOPMENT

A call for basin-wide energy plans –Bangkok Post

Preparatory work for the next big dam on the Mekong — Pak Beng — in northern Laos has begun. This news supports the widespread narrative that the current rapid pace of dam construction on the Mekong River will continue until the entire river is turned into a series of reservoirs. Certainly the construction of even a few large dams will severely impact food security in the world’s most productive freshwater fishery and sharply reduce the delivery of nutrient-rich sediment needed to sustain agriculture, especially in Cambodia and Vietnam’s Mekong Delta.

Protect the Mekong together –VietnamNet Bridge

Whether it is for power generation or irrigation, all upstream developments on the Mekong River put Vietnam at risk as the last downstream country, experts said. Hence all countries in the Mekong River basin should rethink their approaches and adopt measures to minimise impacts on communities and the ecosystem.

The Mekong: who’s training who? And who’s supplying who? –BlueNotes ANZ

In the Mekong there’s a pronounced disparity between the size and relative development stage of each of the region’s economies. A key plank of the region’s development agenda is its Special Economic Zones, with a staggered approach evident across both Asia and the Mekong in particular. New ANZ research suggests EZs are succeeding in attracting investment and production into the Mekong economies that would have otherwise not have occurred.

Special economic zones help attracting investment into Vietnam –VietNamNet Bridge

Special economic zones (SEZ), as per the survey’s findings, appear to be enablers of structural changes through a combination of ‘linkages’ and demonstration effects. Infrastructure is the crucial input expected of any SEZ. In most of the Mekong economies, SEZs are perceived to provide significant insulation from the uncertain external/outside environment.

 

CAMBODIA

Cambodia digs into sand mining industry as beaches and crabs vanish –Reuters

Cambodian officials have promised to investigate problems in the sand mining business following complaints from fishermen that dredgers have been stealing the shore beneath their boats on an industrial scale. The discrepancy, worth more than $740 million, led a coalition of campaign groups to call for an investigation into what has happened to around 69 million tonnes of missing sand. (See also: Illegal Sand Dredging Eradicated, Mines Ministry Claims –The Cambodia Daily)

Sambo Dam Depends on Feasibility Study –Khmer Times

Following multiple marches and petitions from youth groups and environmentalists concerning the proposed Sambo Hydro dam in Kratie province, the government has announced it is conducting feasibility studies into the project. The Secretary of State at the Ministry of Mines and Energy noted that the dam’s impact on fish migration was a factor being considered in the review.

 

LAO PDR

Laos Proceeds with Third Contentious Mekong Dam –AP via the Irrawaddy

Laos has notified its Southeast Asian neighbors that it’s moving ahead with a third contentious hydro dam on the Mekong River’s mainstream. The Mekong River Commission, an organization that groups together Laos, Cambodia, Vietnam and Thailand for joint management of the river, said in a statement it has received notice from Laos that it will undertake a process of consultation about the Pak Beng dam. (See also: Laos Submits Mekong Dam Proposal –Khmer Times)

Pak Beng – The Third Domino in The Series of Mainstream Dams on The Lower Mekong in Laos –Ngo The Vinh via The Mekong Eye (Analysis)

Construction works on the hydropower dam Pak Beng are scheduled to start in 2017. According to Deputy Minister of Energy and Mines of Laos, Pak Beng is one of the five hydropower dam projects on the mainstream to be built in North Laos in the district of Pak Beng, Oudomsay Province. The Director General of the Lao Energy Policy and Planning Department, stated that Pak Beng is a run–of–river dam located upstream, 14 km from the center of Pak Beng District. With an estimated output of 912 MW it has an average projected production of 4,775 GWh per year.

Investor given green light to build Namxam IV hydro project in Laos –Vientiane Times via The Nation

Laos government has given the green light to a foreign investor to develop the 100-megawatt Namxam IV Hydropower Project in Huaphan province. The Lao government and the company signed a memorandum of understanding on the project development. An environmental and social impact assessment was certified for the planned project.

Only 3 Irrawaddy Dolphins remain in Laos, says WWF –Mizzima

The population of Irrawaddy Dolphins in Laos has fallen to just three, bringing into question the species’ survival in that country, according to the World Wildlife Fund.

 

MYANMAR

Salween River Dams Intrude on Contested Land –Circle of Blue (Podcast)

The contest over the Mekong River is perhaps the most well-known, but conflict in the Salween basin is no less active. Fighting between the central government and ethnic groups has displaced thousands of people in recent years as national hydropower plans overlap with long-running political disputes. 

Environmental conference participants demand govt reject Myitsone dam –Myanmar Times

Angry villagers, government officials, MPs, experts, and national and international NGOs came together to denounce the troubled Myitsone dam project in Kachin State. Convened by the Myanmar Green Network, last week they spoke out in a bid to influence the commission set up by the state counsellor to report on the dam’s future.

Can Myanmar’s hydropower study truly be for the people? –Myanmar Times

The deadly conflict is taking place around the construction site of the Hat Gyi hydropower dam on the Salween River. The 1360-megawatt project is slated for development by a consortium of Thai, Chinese and Myanmar companies, with the electricity generated to be exported to Thailand. Fighting has escalated as plans to build the project move forward, with both groups struggling to wrest control of the area.

Assailants Blow up Jade-Mining Firm in Northern Myanmar’s Hpakant –RFA Asia

The office of a jade-mining company in Myanmar’s resource-rich Hpakant region was blown up by assailants on Thursday, the latest such attack on a mining firm in the country’s volatile Kachin state. Yadanar Yaung Chi Company, which mined more than 200 tons of jade stones in October, lost at least U.S. $5 million dollars’ worth of machinery and equipment in the fire caused by the blast.

Amid peace and prosperity, Myanmar farmers fall prey to land seizures –Reuters

Land disputes are a longstanding problem in Myanmar, but researchers from New York-based Human Rights Watch (HRW) documented rising discontent over displacement for agriculture, mining and infrastructure projects. Land confiscation and reprisals against protesters are particularly acute in resource-rich Kayin state and is seen as attractive for investment in tourism, mining and agriculture, said in a report.

Singapore firm plans Thilawa galvanising plant –Myanmar Times

Amid booming demand for high-quality construction materials, Meranti Singapore is planning to build a steel galvanising plant and paintline in Thilawa special economic zone. The firm intends to spend US$85 million on the facility, and is in discussion with the SEZ operator and potential local partners.

 

THAILAND

Eight countries agree on irrigation scheme –The Nation

Eight countries signed a ministerial declaration in Chiang Mai to cooperate on improving irrigation systems among member countries to ensure food and water security. A high-level advisory group on “Partnerships for Agriculture Water Management” was established by the Chiang Mai Declaration to facilitate improved agricultural water productivity and management.

Thailand proposes investment in solar power sector –Eleven Myanmar  

A Thai company proposed to make investments in a solar power station in Magway Region. They proposed to build a 150-megawatt solar power station in Minbu. We will allow it after examining their proposal. The proposal is being examined now” said an official from Myanmar Investment Commission (MIC).

 

VIETNAM

‘Environmental refugees’ in Mekong River Delta expected in future, experts say –VietNamNet Bridge

Vietnam, especially the Mekong River Delta, has been warned for 20 years that it will be one of the areas to suffer most seriously from climate change. Farmers in Mekong River Delta, for example, had to migrate to avoid floods. In other cases, they had to leave because of the unanticipated impact from hydropower plants.

Power plant proposes plan to dump 1.3 million tons of waste into Vietnam’s sea –Vietnam Express International

The southern province of Binh Thuan’s Environment Department has sent a document to the Vietnam Administration of Seas and Islands asking for opinions on a proposal to dump 1.3 million tons of waste into the sea. According to the company, Tuy Phong District does not have the land to process such a huge volume of waste, so it has asked for permission to “bury” the waste at sea.

Saving the Mekong Delta on Saturday Extra –ABC Radio

Rising sea levels and upstream dams threaten the long term viability of the Mekong Delta, but there is a plan to save it.

Vietnam likely to put off nuclear plant construction  –Business Mirror

Vietnam’s ruling Communist Party in October instructed government authorities to revise plans to build nuclear power plants with Russian and Japanese assistance, with a view to delaying them due to the government’s tight finances, it was learned on Sunday from party and government sources.

Coal-fired power plant operates without license in southern Vietnam –Tuoi Tre News

A thermoelectricity power plant in the Mekong Delta province of Tra Vinh has been in operation for the past ten months despite lacking proper paperwork and posing high environmental risks. The Vietnamese Ministry of Industry and Trade in October announced a list of major projects and factories in the country which pose high pollution risks.

Vietnam to import coal, liquefied natural gas for electricity generation –Xinhua via Global Times

Vietnam plans to import coal and liquefied natural gas to feed its power plants as the country strives to meet growing demand for electricity, the Ministry of Industry and Trade said. Starting from 2017, the country will import large amount of coal to feed its thermoelectric plants, with the amount gradually increasing to some 85 million tons of coal by 2030.

 

DEVELOPMENT CONTEXT

CAMBODIA

Human Side of Business –Khmer Times

Companies should embrace the concept of corporate social responsibility (CSR) in their operations and encourage a positive impact through their activities on the environment, consumers, employees, communities, stakeholders and all other members of the public. “CSR-focused businesses would proactively promote public interest by encouraging community growth and development, and voluntarily eliminate practices that harm the public,” Tek Vannra, executive director of NGO Forum on Cambodia said.

 

LAO PDR

Laos, China’s Jilin province agree to expand production capacity cooperation –China Daily

Laos and Northeast China’s Jilin province on Wednesday agreed to expand production capacity cooperation. During a meeting on promotion of production capacity cooperation held in Lao capital Vientiane, Lao Deputy Minister of Planning and Investment Khamlien Pholsena said Jilin is the first Chinese region coming to Laos to promote production capacity cooperation.

MYANMAR

A gauge for democracy: media freedoms under fire in the new Myanmar –Myanmar Times

With landslide election victory of Daw Aung San Suu Kyi’s National League for Democracy, it was the initial opening of the media environment. It’s a sign of the end of official government censorship and the issuance of publication licenses to dozens of independent newspapers across the country, that left many to conclude that the stage for concrete reforms was finally set and that Myanmar was on the right political track.

Suu Kyi calls on Japanese companies for investment –The Japan News

Aung San Suu Kyi, Myanmar’s state counsellor and foreign minister, met with representatives of the Japanese business community in Japan, calling on them to accelerate investment in Myanmar. However, there are challenges in the country, such as establishing a legal system and infrastructure. Not a few Japanese companies are still reluctant about advancing into Myanmar.

 

VIETNAM

China, Vietnam enjoy stable development of ties, broad prospects for cooperation – Xinhua (Commentary)

China and Vietnam are enjoying stable development of bilateral ties in a new era, while envisioning broad prospects for pragmatic cooperation in a wide range of areas. Chinese President visit to Vietnam has made great contribution to consolidating bilateral traditional friendship, deepening comprehensive strategic cooperation between China and Vietnam and promoting peace, stability and development in the region.

 

GLOBAL CONTEXT

China’s damming projects leave neighbours feeling nervous –Today Online

China said a hydropower project in Tibet was diverting water from a tributary of the Brahmaputra River, which flows into India and Bangladesh, reigniting concern over China’s control of some of the region’s biggest waterways that have provided irrigation, transport and life to much of South and South-east Asia for millennia.

The hydropower paradox: is this energy as clean as it seems? –The Guardian

Many countries consider hydroelectricity a clean source of power because it doesn’t involve burning dirty fossil fuels. But that’s far from true. Hydropower is a significant source of greenhouse gas emissions: a new study shows that the world’s hydroelectric dams are responsible for as much methane emissions as Canada.

 

LOCAL LANGUAGE NEWS  

CAMBODIA LANGUAGE

Cambodia-China co-organize the second meeting among Minister of Foreign Affair on Mekong-Lancang in Sieam Reap – Thmey Thmey

On 22-23 December 2016, the second meeting among Ministers of Foreign Affair will be organized in Siem Reap province to discuss about Mekong-Lancang, but there is no agenda for discussion among Cambodia, China and other four countries in the Mekong region (Laos, Myanmar, Thailand and Viet Nam) yet. Mekong-Lancang cooperation is an initiative introduced by Chinese Prime Minister, Li Keqiang in the 17th ASEAN-China meeting in Myanmar in 2014. The first meeting was held in China for a three-day in November 2015, and the discussion is about water resources management public health science technology culture and economic cooperation in a framework of Greater Mekong Sub-region and ASEAN.

 

MYNAMAR LANGUAGE

“The guideline is drafted for – how the public could participate in EIA processes and what should include in the guidelines” –7 Day Daily (Interview)

The draft Regional Guidelines on Public Participation in EIA process has been drafted by the five Mekong member countries, Myanmar, Laos PDR, Cambodia, Vietnam and Thailand for the investments in Mekong region. The guidelines have been developed since 2015, and it will be finalized in early 2017.  7 Day Daily has interviewed with one of the members of the Regional Technical Working Group on EIA from Myanmar, Ms. Naw Ei Ei Min, the director of POINT, Promotion of Indigenous and Nature Together. Ms. Naw Ei Ei Min has been working for environmental awareness raising for almost ten years, and now drafting the regional public participation guidelines on EIA. She has also worked for UNREDD+, indigenous peoples’ rights and other environmental related issues.

Local Communities Protest Against CNPC –Eleven News

The local people from four village tracks in Kyauk Phyu Special Economic Zones, protest against the CNPC for land confiscation and the damage of irrigated lands. Hundreds acres of farmland have been confiscated for Shwe Gas pipe line and Kyauk Phyu SEZ projects, and villagers did not get full compensations yet. “We did make a protest on 2nd May. They came and checked here for several times. But, there is no action so far.  21 farmers, who own 18.03 acreas of land didn’t get any compensation yet. On 5th June, we also protest when the Chinese Ambassador visited the site. The CNPC didn’t take any actions so far”, Ms. Kyi Kyi Thin said. The protest was led by Kyaukphyu Rural Development Association (KRDA).

Regional Laws control Jade and Gold Mining in Kachin –Eleven News

The regional minister of the Kachin State in Myanmar said, “they will control the production of jade and gold mining as to conserve the environment.” Due to the over exploration and exploitation of Jade production and gold mining, the Uru river has damaged severely, and there is no effort to stop it from the union government. Four villages have been removed from their own places and only a few were resettled in new villages.

 

RESOURCES & PRESS RELEASES

UPDATE: New Cambodian and Myanmar Journalism Networks Call on Editors and Decision Makers to Support Environmental Reporting –Mekong Matters Journalism Network / MPE

At two public fora in October, Cambodian and Myanmar journalists called for editors and decision makers to work on improving environmental reporting and the availability of quality information. The two separate events brought together reporters, editors and key figures in environmental governance to discuss solutions on enhancing the media’s role in covering stories related to the environmental and social impacts of development. (See also: The media’s role in telling environmental stories –National Climate Change Secretariat)

NEWS: Learning to Better Engage Stakeholders in Myanmar –IFC

IFC, with support from the Australian government, and the Norwegian Water Resources and Energy Directorate (NVE), conducted a training workshop on stakeholder engagement for officials from the Ministry of Natural Resources and Environmental Conservation (MONREC) and the Ministry of Electricity and Energy (MOEE) in Nay Pyi Taw.  Using IFC’s Performance Standards approach, participants learned how to identify stakeholders, about ethnic minorities in Myanmar, engagement tools, levels of engagement, and equity sharing. 

UPDATE: CSOs in Cambodia organized The International Day of the World’s Indigenous Peoples -NGO Forum on Cambodia

CSOs in Cambodia cooperate with Ministry of Rural Development to organized the International Day of the World’s Indigenous Peoples on 09 August 2016 at Center of Sport of Kompong Speu Province. The overall objective is to enhance indigenous people’s rights through public recognition and to raise people’s general awareness of indigenous people’s culture and issues in the Kingdom of Cambodia.

 

 

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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