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  • The Mekong River winding through the flooded forest in Cambodia.

    China’s its own worst enemy in regional relations

    04/01/2016

    China’s pattern of regional conduct has come increasingly into focus in recent times. Its behaviour is much less about maintaining the ‘status quo’, and much more about revising the established dynamics and contours in the region to its preferences. This revisionism is likely to become the primary source of tensions and potential conflict in Southeast Asia.

    A view of the dam at the Jinghong Hydropower Station on the Lancang River, the Chinese section of the Mekong River, in Jinghong city, Yunnan province, 20 May 2013. (Photo: AAP).

    Nowhere are China’s revisionist aims more evident than in the South China Sea and the upper reaches of the Mekong River, which straddles southern China, Myanmar, Thailand, Laos, Cambodia and Vietnam.

  • Daw Suu’s in-tray piles up as CSOs raise their voice

    03/31/2016

    Civil society organisations, in general steadfast supporters of the National League for Democracy and its leader, have not been idle in pressing their demands, many in critical areas combining overlapping aspects of her multiple ministerial posts.

    Yesterday the NLD received an appeal by three prominent CSOs in Shan State calling for the immediate halt of construction work that has already begun on the controversial Upper Yeywa dam on the Myitnge (Namtu) River, as well as plans to build three others.

  • Five Features of Lancang-Mekong River Cooperation

    03/31/2016

    A new word-Lancang-Mekong River cooperation was added into the Chinese diplomatic dictionary last year. This morning, the Foreign Ministry website released the information that the first leaders’ meeting on Lancang-Mekong River cooperation will be held in Sanya, Hainan Province. Compared with many serious diplomatic words, “Lancang-Mekong” is down-to-earth from the beginning and brings to mind a popular food “blueberry”.. What is Lancang-Mekong River cooperation? What does it do? Who is it intended for? How does it benefit people’s lives? Now, let us get close to and understand Lancang-Mekong cooperation and thus taste this “blueberry”.

    1.What is Lancang-Mekong River cooperation?
    2.What has the Lancang-Mekong River cooperation done?
    3. What is the aim of the Lancang-Mekong River cooperation?
    4. What will Lancang-Mekong River cooperation do?
    5. What will the future of Lancang-Mekong River cooperation look like?

  • Myanmar to have first Thai-operated powerplant in Dawei SEZ

    03/30/2016

    Myanmar’s Energy Ministry has signed a 10-billion-baht concession agreement with a Thai company to produce electricity within the Dawei Special Economic Zone (SEZ).

    The Thai company, United Power Of Asia PCL (UPA), recently inked the 30-year agreement with the government of Myanmar to build a natural gas power plant, which has a capacity of 200 megawatts.

    It will be the first Thai power plant operating in the Dawei SEZ. Under the agreement, the Myanmar government will supply natural gas to the UPA power plant for free. The Thai company will also earn 1.18 baht for every unit of the electricity sold in the country.

  • Govt. expedites diversion of water from Mekong

    03/30/2016

    The Royal Irrigation Department has confirmed that the public sector is trying to increase water volumes in the country especially by diverting water from the Mekong river to drought-hit areas.

    Expert from the Royal Irrigation Department Sanya Saengphumphong said the department was conducting a study on how to divert water from the Mekong for use and building temporary pumping stations with the capacity of 40 million cubic meters. The pumping stations are expected to benefit more than 10,000 Rai of drought-hit areas. The pumping stations will be upgraded into permanent ones with the capacity of 100 million cubic meters in 2017.

    The department also had a plan to divert water from the Moei and Salween rivers in Myanmar into the Bhumibol dam in Thailand, said the expert.

  • Dam-affected villagers make case to UN envoy

    03/30/2016

    The UN special rapporteur for human rights in Cambodia met with Stung Treng Governor Mom Saroen yesterday to discuss the plight of ethnic minorities in the province affected by the Lower Sesan 2 dam project.

    Special rapporteur Rhona Smith is in Cambodia on a 10-day visit focusing on women’s and indigenous people’s rights, and on Sunday met with villagers in Sesan district’s Kbal Romea commune.

    According to indigenous rights activist Ngach Samin, who was at Sunday’s meeting, the villagers revealed a litany of complaints, primarily focused on their scheduled resettlement to make way for the Lower Sesan 2 dam.

  • China Puts the Brakes on New Coal Plants

    03/30/2016

    Chinese media reported today that the country’s National Energy Administration (NEA) has ordered 13 provincial governments to suspend approvals of new coal-fired power plant projects until the end of 2017.

    Another group of 15 provinces has been ordered to delay new construction of projects that have already been approved. According to Greenpeace East Asia’s initial assessment of the implications of the rules, up to 250 coal-fired power plant units with a total of 170 gigawatts of capacity could be affected if the rules are fully implemented.

    At least 570 coal-fired units with 300 gigawatts of capacity could still come online, despite dramatic overcapacity of coal in China.

  • Tenasserim Chief Minister Lei Lei Maw: ‘We Will Rebuild Our Country’

    03/30/2016

    Lei Lei Maw, a sitting lawmaker in the regional legislature for Tenasserim Division, was appointed chief minister of the division on Monday, becoming one of Burma’s first females to hold the position.

    Burma’s state and divisional parliaments this week announced the incoming regional heads, appointed by President-elect Htin Kyaw, and the list included two women—Lei Lei Maw and Karen State’s Nang Khin Htwe Myint. Despite pro-democracy icon Aung San Suu Kyi’s prominence in Burma, women have been largely excluded from top political posts in her incoming National League for Democracy (NLD) government.

    Lei Lei Maw, 51, is a medical doctor who joined the NLD in 2012 and ran in the November 2015 general election, representing Thayetchaung constituency. The ethnic Karen-Burman, Christian, and mother of four has run a private clinic for more than 20 years and has delivered free health care in remote villages.

    She will succeed the Union Solidarity and Development Party’s (USDP) Myat Ko, who sought re-election in 2015 but was defeated. The ceremonial transfer of power will occur on Wednesday night in Naypyidaw.

    The Irrawaddy spoke with Lei Lei Maw following her parliamentary appointment on Monday.

  • Thailand’s transparency deficit: Haste makes waste on mega-projects

    03/29/2016

    One of the country’s top bankers is stressing the need for faster action to transform Thailand into a hub for CLMV countries (Cambodia, Laos, Myanmar and Vietnam).

    Kevin Tan, CEO of HSBC Thailand, was speaking during an interview on Vietnam’s increasing attractiveness to foreign investors. Vietnam’s gross domestic product grew a whopping 797 per cent between 1995 and 2014, from US$20.74 billion to $186.2 billion. Thailand’s GDP growth was sluggish in comparison, rising from $169.28 billion to $404.8 billion over the same period.

    And with big names like Intel, Apple and Samsung now showing interest in Vietnam, it seems the times are against Thailand.

  • Drowning in generosity

    03/29/2016

    Again?” Chai Tamuen, 42, thought when he saw Mekong water rising at the riverbank of Chiang Khan district in Loei eight days ago.

    Overnight, water had engulfed the sandy shore of Kaeng Khut Khu, a tourist spot popular for swimming and recreation, leaving stalls stranded on an “island” now surrounded by water.

    As a vendor, Mr Chai was forced to leave his kiosk four days later when water submerged half of the island.

    “This is not the first time that the bank has been flooded in dry season. It’s happened like this for the last five years,” he said.

    “We can’t predict water. Our income has not been stable since Chinese dams have taken control over the water upstream.”

    China announced on March 14 it would discharge a massive quantity of water from one of its dams, claiming it would help communities in the Mekong region facing severe drought.

  • The grand vision for mainland China’s Nu River can become a model for the region

    03/29/2016

    China’s slowing economy would not seem a good time to scrap hydroelectric dam projects. That would seem especially so in southwest Yunnan’s Nu River valley, among the nation’s poorest regions. Yet provincial authorities have decided to put the way of life of villagers and the environment first by calling a halt to small-scale schemes. It is a hopeful sign for those in the area and downstream in Myanmar and Thailand who rely on the waters for their livelihoods.

    The valley is a Unesco World Heritage site included for its scenery and biodiversity, accounting for 6,000 different types of plants and half of China’s animal and fish species. Plans in 2004 for a 13-dam cascade to be built in the upper reaches of the Nu were shelved under pressure the following year, but revived in 2013 on a lesser scale with an eye on meeting national renewal energy targets. The province’s Communist Party chief, Li Jiheng, said earlier this month that projects for coal mines and small hydro plants beside the river and on tributaries would not go ahead. In five to 10 years, with vegetation restored, the valley would be a tourist attraction rivaling the US’ Grand Canyon.

  • A reality check for renewable energy

    03/29/2016

    The clean-and-safe energy revolution is not imminent. In fact, according to the information compiled by Looking Ahead: The 50 Global Trends That Matter,1an annual compendium of data and graphics on subjects ranging from economics to demography to energy, the majority of the planet’s electricity needs will still be fueled by coal and natural gas in 2040—despite strong growth in nonhydro renewables such as wind, solar, and geothermal. The report also expects the shale phenomenon to abate, with Saudi Arabia reasserting itself as the world’s leading oil producer in 2030.

    Looking Ahead, which is produced by an independent think tank supported by Abu Dhabi’s Crown Prince Court, does not take a view on these trends; instead, it simply lays out the best available information from a wide variety of sources, including governments, consultancies, think tanks, corporations, and multilateral institutions. The overriding aim of the publication is to highlight issues that matter in compelling visualizations that make it easier for readers to grasp a large amount of interlinked data—and thus better understand both the nature of the problems the world faces and how to address them.

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