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Mekong Eye News Digest: 23 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 4500 key development professionals, government officials, business leaders and journalists.

By The Mekong Eye

Mekong Region, December 2, 2016

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

To November 30, 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

Killing the Mekong, Dam by Dam –The Diplomat

Regional governments have been underestimating the environmental and economic costs of Mekong dams. The Lao government plans to build nine dams on the mainstream Mekong, and hundreds more on other rivers and tributaries, claiming that this is the only path to development for one of the region’s poorest countries. Can the once mighty Mekong alter its currently blighted course of unregulated development, and this alarming rate of depletion of its natural resources?

Regulatory shortcomings open the way to more Mekong dams –Channel News Asia

Plans for more dams along the Mekong are causing concern among environmentalists and pressure groups. But the body tasked with overseeing such projects has limited powers to impose restrictions and controls. While advocates have said the dam would produce reliable energy for local communities, concerns are intensifying in Laos and internationally about the negative effects.

Save The Mekong Coalition Statement For The 23rd MRC Council Meeting –Blue and Green Tomorrow

At the 23rd MRC council meeting, the Save the Mekong Coalition raises concerns over hydropower projects. The Save the Mekong Coalition notes with serious concern the ongoing development of hydropower projects on the Mekong mainstream, despite unresolved issues over transboundary and cumulative impacts of projects already under construction and a breakdown in shared regional decision-making.

 After COP22, cities will lead on climate change: Are Mekong cities part of this trend?Special to The Mekong Eye

Because of its abundant resources, the Mekong River is now a “hot spot” for the economic development of the countries who share this important resource. This has resulted in the genesis of new emerging cities though out the Mekong. This becomes a problem if we consider that these new urban centres are sprouting in places that are risky and vulnerable to flooding and extreme weather events, particularly along coasts, rivers, and deltas.

Infrastructure boom threatening tigers -Myanmar Times

China, Myanmar, Thailand and Malaysia now have less than 500 tigers between them. More than 11,000 kilometres (6835 miles) of road and railway are already being constructed through tigers’ natural habitats across the continent, along with canals, and oil and gas pipelines.

 

CAMBODIA

Fledgling Cambodian solar industry sees glimpse of light –Channel News Asia

Cambodia is trailing its neighbours in encouraging alternative power sources to reduce the strain on its environment. In the final part of a special series looking at energy provision along the Mekong, Jack Board looks at how the solar industry could be set for a timely expansion.

Rural Cambodian villagers defiant in face of looming hydropower flood –Channel News Asia

Sre Kor is a peaceful place. But turmoil and uncertainty flow through this community with the same power as the adjoining Sesan River. Soon, the hundreds of families living here, many of them for generations, will be moved elsewhere. By next year, , it is expected that the plains upon which this settlement sits will be engulfed as the nearby Lower Sesan 2 hydropower dam project begins operations.

Cambodia Supports Lao Dam: PM –Khmer Times

Cambodia will support the Don Sahong hydroelectric dam planned to be built in south Laos less than two kilometers from the Cambodian border, while civil society groups continue to appeal to regional authorities to halt construction on environmental grounds.  “Cambodia supports Laos with Don Sahong dam construction and allows Laos to use roads and ports to [trade] goods because Laos has no sea,” Prime Minister Hun Sen wrote, speaking about an agreement to boost bilateral trade. (See also: Don Sahong dam ‘no problem’, says premier –The Phnom Penh Post and  Touting Cheap Power, Hun Sen Denies Damage From Dam  –The Phnom Penh Post)

NGOs Urge Government to Shut Down Yellow Vine Processing Plants –The Cambodia Daily

Environmental NGOs are calling on the government to shut down suspected yellow vine processing operations in Koh Kong province, citing serious risks to the environment and public health.

ELCs bring almost no benefits to local communities: study –The Phnom Penh Post

A study looking at economic land concessions (ELCs) in Ratanakkiri province has found that, contrary to the oft-repeated government narrative, they have brought almost no benefits to local communities. The study also found that 35.5 to 36 percent of households had fallen into debt.

Villagers Request Land Dispute Resolution –Khmer Times

More than 50 people representing 253 families from Preah Vihear province’s Choam Ksan district resubmitted a petition to the Interior Ministry, asking authorities to expedite a resolution of their land dispute. Citizen representative Phan Theoun said it was the second time they had submitted a petition.

 

LAO PDR

Nam Xong Development Negotiated –Lao News Agency

Policy makers in the Nam Xong area of Vientiane Province are discovering that mooted economic developments in the region may not always have their desired impacts. The project led by CGIAR has been bringing together government decision makers from various sectors and levels since early 2015 to discuss possible development paths in the Nam Xong watershed and how they will affect the futures of local people.

Laos, Vietnam discussing fuel supply pipeline –Xinhua via China.org

Lao and Vietnamese governments have expressed their full support for the construction of a pipeline that would deliver fuel from Vietnam to Laos. The survey, design and feasibility study of the proposed pipeline project have been ongoing for several years.

Solar progress in Laos hindered by hydro focus –PV Tech

Household solar systems have taken hold in Laos, but PV deployment on a grand-scale is being held back by a focus on hydropower, according to delegates at the Solar & Off-Grid Renewables Southeast Asia Event in Bangkok.

 

MYANMAR

Damming the Salween: What Next for Southeast Asia’s Last Great Free-Flowing River? –Mongabay

Myanmar, Thailand and China have big plans to harness the Salween’s vast hydro-electric potential, forever changing the river’s vital role in the environment, cultures and economies of the regions it flows through. Myanmar plans to build five major hydroelectric dams on its stretch of the Salween River. The dams threaten the river’s ecology and the livelihoods of riverine communities, and could exacerbate conflict between the army and non-state ethnic armed groups.

A faster way to fix electricity –Frontier Myanmar

Myanmar’s power demands will increase substantially in the near future, creating an opportunity to embrace renewables. With electricity demand growing fast, time is a critical factor when screening options for increasing supply. Hydropower projects typically take seven to ten years. All alternatives – except nuclear – are faster to build than hydro. Solar and wind are almost as fast.

Asia – Where The Mining Activity Is –Value Walk (Blog)

It’s incredible having projects that people of such caliber would fly around the world to visit — which is largely a testament to the unsurpassed prospectivity of Myanmar. As it turns out, the under-explored nature here means you can almost literally walk into the jungle on traverse and find yourself standing atop surface-outcropping mineralization — silver, zinc, lead, copper, gold, tin, tungsten.

For Apple and others, tin supply chain has ties to rebel-held Myanmar mine –Reuters

From a remote corner of northeastern Myanmar, an insurgent army sells tin ore to suppliers of some of the world’s largest consumer companies. More than 500 companies, including leading brands such as Apple, Starbucks and luxury jeweler Tiffany & Co, list among their suppliers Chinese-controlled firms that indirectly buy ore from the Man Maw mine near Myanmar’s border with China, a Reuters examination of the supply chain found.

President outlines steps for green future –Myanmar Times

President U Htin Kyaw set out the government’s vision for the country’s transition to a green economy. Six broad measures – including promoting the renewable energy sector, changing the public’s consumption habits and developing financial incentives for environmentally friendly innovation – make up the government’s overarching plan for a greener future.

 

THAILAND

Thailand ups long-term LNG imports due to coal-fired plant delays ET EnergyWorld

Thailand is increasing its planned long-term imports of liquefied natural gas (LNG) to meet rising demand after delays to the construction of coal-fired power plants, a senior official at energy ministry said.

Court dismisses charges against anti-mine activists –Prachatai

A criminal court has dismissed criminal defamation and computer crime charges against anti-mine activists. The two activists were accused under such offences for reporting in April 2016 on Facebook that the mining operations of the company might have caused damages to the local environment and health of people living in communities around the mines.

Endangered Dolphins Strengthen Thai-Cambodia Relations –Nature World News

The dolphin conservation project between Thailand and Cambodia program aims to educate and raise awareness for the conservation and protection of such threatened species. They also hope to improve the livelihoods of fishermen who were affected by the dolphin management zones.

 

VIETNAM

Darkness along the banks of “The river of light” –Special to The Mekong Eye

Hydropower development is always a trade-off between economic benefits and environmental issues. Human-beings’ intrusive intervention has been turning many rivers into dead flows. The fate of the 3S basin – the name of three rivers Sesan, Sekong and Srepok which run through the territories of Vietnam, Laos and Cambodia before joining the Great Mekong – are drastically threatened by hydropower dams.

Vietnam proposes transboundary water-resources management policy –VietNamNet Bridge

While cross-border management of water resources is a necessary long-term strategy, the question is how to do it, experts say. At the 24th APEC Summit, a high-ranking leader suggested developing agriculture in a sustainable manner in tandem with the effective use of natural resources, including cross-border management of water resources.

CEO dismisses environmental concerns over Taiwan paper mill in southern Vietnam –Tuoi Tre News

The chief executive of a Taiwan-invested paper project in Tien Giang has directly addressed allegations that his facility may pollute one of the most important waterways in the southern province and Mekong Delta. The Hau River is also under threat from another paper mill run by Hong Kong’s Lee & Man Paper.

Facing Power Shortage, Vietnam Plans to Import Electricity From Laos –Saigoneer

Due to increasing domestic demand, Vietnam is negotiating to import electricity from Laos. However, in order to meet short-term demand, Vietnam is now turning to Laos, the future “battery of Southeast Asia”, as its western neighbor ramps up electricity production by adding four more hydropower plants in 2017.

Mekong Delta city pulls plug on long-delayed oil refinery project –Vietnam Express International

Various investors have failed to make any progress on the project since 2008. Can Tho City in Vietnam’s Mekong Delta, has finally decided to put an end to an oil refinery project following years of delays.

Nuclear production’s out, what about consumption? –Vietnam News (Opinion)

When Vietnam main legislative body, the National Assembly, decided to cancel plans to build two nuclear power plants, many lauded the “courageous” move. There is general agreement that scrapping the plants was a wise move, especially in the context of cheaper, safer renewable energy options including power imports. Besides, the massive investments involved could now be diverted to more urgent infrastructure needs.

Construction, mining ravage neighborhoods in Vietnam’s Da Nang –Tuoi Tre News

Hills and mountains in Hoa Nhon and Hoa Phong Communes in Hoa Vang District are not the only victims of the aggressive expansion of construction projects in the area. A boom in construction and quarry mining in some outlying areas in the central Vietnamese city of Da Nang has gnawed mercilessly on the local environment, adversely affecting locals’ life.

 

DEVELOPMENT CONTEXT

Sweden Pledges $5.3M to Mekong River Body –The Cambodia Daily

As bitter protests continue over ongoing Mekong River dam projects, Sweden has pledged $5.3 million to a controversial multinational body monitoring development in the basin. The funding—to be disbursed over the next four years—will promote sustainable hydropower in the Mekong River basin, the Mekong River Commission (MRC) said in a press release

The corporate wax nose –Open Democracy

A fountain of noble intentions and good deeds, Corporate Social Responsibility (CSR) has long been advertised as a sure-fire way to improve and extend the benefits of capitalism for society. But does it actually deliver on that goal? Judging by the results of recent research the answer is no, even if many followers of CSR seem unprepared to grapple with those findings.

The AIIB and Shifting Economic Dynamics in Southeast Asia –Brink News

The China-led Asian Infrastructure Investment Bank, which seeks to help plug Asia’s infrastructure-funding gap, has begun shifting the economic balance of power and influence in Southeast Asia, a region in which Japan and the United States have traditionally been the key external economic players.

 

MYANMAR

Data transparency project launched in Yangon –Frontier Myanmar

Innovation hub Phandeeyar on Tuesday launched an open data portal to encourage transparency and improve decision-making, as part of a Mekong-wide project. Phandeeyar program manager Ko Thet Aung said the Open Development Myanmar site aims to use information and technology to promote development and support Myanmar’s transition process. (See also: Phandeeyar launches open data site ‘Open Development Myanmar’ –Coconuts Yangon)

Myanmar rebels cause great expense to China –Global Times

For a long time, the conflicts between the Myanmese government and the ethnic armed groups in northern Myanmar have caused great losses to Chinese investment in the region. The most typical one is the construction of the Myitsone dam, which has been suspended for five years because of the conflicts between the Myanmese government and the KIA. Generally speaking, conflicts between the Myanmese government and ethnic armed groups will be a major obstacle for the advancement of China’s Belt and Road initiative.

 

VIETNAM

A plan to legalise Vietnam’s private charities and clubs is shelved –The Economist

Ms Thao’s small organisation is among more than 300,000 charities, clubs and associations operating in Vietnam, a single-party state with an increasingly vibrant civic life. For years campaigners had dared to hope that a proposed law, which was supposed to pass on November 18th, would help cement citizens’ right to associate. Instead lawmakers talked of tightening restrictions on civil society before shelving the bill altogether.

 

GLOBAL CONTEXT

A Water War in Asia? –Project Syndicate (Opinion)

Asia has less fresh water per capita than any other continent, and it is already facing a water crisis that, according to an MIT study, will continue to intensify, with severe water shortages expected by 2050. At a time of widespread geopolitical discord, competition over freshwater resources could emerge as a serious threat to long-term peace and stability in Asia.

ADB holds first green business forum for Asia and the Pacific –Eco Business

The Asian Development Bank (ADB) hosted its inaugural Green Business Forum for Asia and the Pacific. The forum was held from November 22 to 24 amid the need to address Asia’s own socio-economic and environmental challenges – such as climate change, population growth, dwindling natural resources, land degradation and water and air pollution – through sustainability in the region’s economic development.

Rare river dolphins get trapped in fishing nets as waters drop –New Scientist

Nepal’s endangered river dolphins are in a tangle. Not only can they die in fishing nets, but farmers further threaten their survival by draining rivers for irrigation. A 15-year study of the Karnali river found that competing demands for river water, especially during the dry winter months, have led to a near halving of this river’s small population of blind Ganges river dolphins.

 

LOCAL LANGUAGE NEWS  

KHMER LANGUAGE

Government official from Ministry of Mine and Energy said that the ministry will address exporting illegal sand dredging –Radio Free Asia Khmer

In the meeting between the Ministry of Mine and Energy and CSOs working in extractive industry and environmental activists at General Department of Petroleum of Ministry of Mine and Energy on 25 November 2016, H.E Meng Saktheara, Secretary of State and Spokesman of the ministry, suggested communities in Koh Kong province and environmental activists volunteering to address the illegal sand dredging. The ministry is reforming governance in extractive industries with collaborates with relevant stakeholders. On 28 October, H.E Suy Sem, the Minister of Mine and Energy, has informed chief of sand exploitation in coastal area to postpone issuing new license and exporting sand. While postponing the sand export, the ministry is conducting a study on restoring river, cannels and natural stream and turn it to exploitation for a sake of national benefits.

 

THAI LANGUAGE

Prime Minister Slowed Down the Coal Power Plant in Krabi as concluded by Locals –Post Today

On 22 November, The Prime Minister Prayuth Chan-Ocha, who is also the head of the National Council for Peace and Order (NCPO) explained for the delay in building power plants in Krabi was due to locals’ demand. He has asked not to use the term ‘suspended’ because this is the conclusion to the needs of local people. However, it doesn’t mean that government would follow every concern that has called for government’s actions. The government will have to follow the opinion of the majority and emphasized that as of today, there is no construction for anything but asked to be careful of the possible impacts in the future. Moreover, the Prime Minister Prayuth also talked about the case that farmers prepared themselves to sue the Ministry of Commerce for the imported wheat that has result in the falling down of corn prices.

 

RESOURCES & PRESS RELEASES

CASE STUDY: Multi-Stakeholder Dialogues Matter: A New Paradigm Towards Responsible Investment. A Case Study On An Extractive Gold Mining Site In Ratanakiri Province, Cambodia –Mekong Partnership for the Environment

Over the past year and a half, Mekong Partnership for the Environment (MPE) partner Development and Partnership in Action (DPA) has worked to build a platform for effective multi-stakeholder engagement on the impacts of mining activities in Cambodia’s Ratanakiri Province. DPA has worked to educate and empower community members to voice their concerns and provide input on mining activities, and has also facilitated productive and collaborative meetings between the mining companies, community members and local government. With DPA’s support, these stakeholders have established an increasingly trusting and transparent working relationship.

BLOG: Healthy Rivers Feed the World –International Rivers

Rivers – and their floods – sustain a vibrant food system. It’s no coincidence that rivers like the Nile, Yangtze, Tigris and Euphrates have served as the cradles of our civilizations.  When rivers are healthy and free-flowing, the people who live on them – and who can access them for food – don’t go hungry. To ensure food security in an era of climate change, we must protect the healthy rivers we have, and restore more rivers to health.

VIDEO: Shining: Co-Powering Communities of Shan State (Myanmar) –EarthRights International

Shining, an EarthRights School Mekong alum, co-founded the Mong Pan Youth Association with her brother to empower youth to engage in the sustainable development of Shan State in Myanmar. In addition to the Mong Pan Youth Association, she co-founded Weaving Bonds Across borders, an international organization that focuses on leadership development and peace building. “My ultimate goal is to see all the people in our community know their own rights, know how to defend for their own rights. Then our community is developed, and our environment is protected.”

STUDY: Real-Time Evaluation of ADB’s Safeguard Implementation Experience Based on Selected Case Studies –ADB

This evaluation examines the value added by the environmental and involuntary resettlement safeguards policies of ADB, and identifies what remains to be done to ensure their effective application. The evaluation uses a case study approach to assess the application of ADB’s safeguards in 12 projects in three countries, Indonesia, Kyrgyz Republic and Sri Lanka. These countries were considered to be around the median in terms of the environmental and involuntary resettlement sensitivity of their roads, energy and water projects.

BLOG: A clearer vision of Laos’ Nam Xong –CGIAR Water, Land and Ecosystems

The Nam Xong flows through the northern part of central Laos, underpins the livelihoods of many of the area’s residents. While tourism plays a growing role in the local economy and offers vital income-generating opportunities to many people, the Xong river also supports traditional subsistence farmers along most of its length. However, it is increasingly being viewed as a potential resource for miners, hydropower operators and agricultural plantation owners.

POSTERS: Community based river health monitoring series –ICEM

The poster presentation was developed as part of the Myanmar Healthy Rivers Initiative, and displayed at the 2016 Greater Mekong Forum on Water, Food and Energy in November. The posters present efforts to develop community-based, river health monitoring techniques for informed and inclusive decision making for the future management of Myanmar’s key river. The six riparian villages that form part of the project, three located along the Ayeyarwady River and three along the Thanlwin River, are presented in the poster series.

 

Editor’s notes:

  • The above is curated by The Mekong Eye, a GeoJournalism website which you can also follow on Twitter and Facebook
  • Please reply to this email to submit press releases or articles, subscribe, unsubscribe or provide feedback or send to tkunklangdone@pactworld.org
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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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