Mekong dam a threat to rare dolphins – and villagers too

THE DON SAHONG hydroelectric dam threatens the last 80 Irrawaddy dolphins in the Mekong River – as well as the livelihoods of the people downstream in Cambodia, who depend heavily on the river’s resources.

The people in Preah Romkel village of Stung Treng province claim their way of life is in danger. The eco-tourism that boosts the local economy will be destroyed if the endangered Irrawaddy dolphins are driven into extinction by the impact of the new Don Sahong Dam on the Laos-Cambodian border.

Mekong Investment Underscores Japan’s Economic Clout in Southeast Asia

Earlier this month, Japan announced a three-year, $7 billion investment deal with the countries of the lower Mekong River to boost development and improve infrastructure. In an email interview, Phuong Nguyen, an associate fellow with the Southeast Asia program at the Center for Strategic and International Studies, discussed Japan’s relations in Southeast Asia.

CK gets B19bn environmental contract for Xayaburi dam

SET-listed Thai construction firm Ch. Karnchang Plc (CK) has secured an additional 19-billion-baht construction contract to optimise the environmental performance of the Xayaburi hydroelectric power plant in Laos.

Company president Supamas Trivisvavet said the additional construction aimed to fulfill requests by the Mekong River Commission to create an earthquake-resistant structure, navigation log, fish passageway and sediment flushing system.

Livelihoods in jeopardy as Vietnam’s Mekong Delta struggles with sediment loss

Duong Cong To checks the water of the Hau River next to his house and he is not happy at all.

“It’s too clean,” he says.

The 72-year-old has spent all his life by the river, one of two tributaries of the Mekong and the main source of alluvium for fish farms and plantations in southern Vietnam.

Over the past years he has noticed a significant change in the river: it keeps changing its color from a reddish brown to an ocean-like blue.

“The water should look red. Now it’s crystal clear like there’s nothing in there.”

Strengthening EIA In Asia

This report was prepared for the Asia EIA Conference 2016 organised on 10 May by the Ministry of the Environment, Japan (MOEJ). The conference was held under the theme of enhancing EIA as a sustainable development planning tool in Asia in collaboration with the Asian Development Bank (ADB) and in cooperation with the US Environmental Protection Agency (USEPA).

The report is based on a study conducted in seven Asian countries, namely Cambodia, Indonesia, Korea, Lao PDR, Myanmar, Thailand and Viet Nam, on their national EIA systems and their implementation, between September 2014 and February 2016. The report aims to summarise and analyse challenges, opportunities and good practices on EIA in these countries to propose possible ways forward as well as potential mutual learning points for strengthening EIA implementation and thus advancing towards a sustainable society. Findings are presented in four segments: (i) quality of EIA (screening and scoping, impact assessment and environmental management and monitoring plan (EMMP), and review and approval of EIA); (ii) information disclosure and public participation; (iii) EMMP implementation; and (iv) Strategic Environmental Assessment (SEA) and upstream EIA.

Southeast Asia’s Rivers Run Dry

The dry months before the monsoon rains arrive are often tough for Cambodian fishermen and farmers. But with rivers drying up and drinking water running out, conditions have rarely been as bad as they are now.

The current drought is linked to El Niño, which has been disrupting weather patterns around the world. But the harsh conditions today might only be foreshadowing far worse to come, climate scientists say. Climate change is expected to continue to affect the Mekong Basin region, while future droughts are expected to be exacerbated by a string of major hydropower dam projects.

Experts fear that the present crisis could become the new normal for Cambodia and its neighbors, which have also been hit hard by record temperatures and a long period of extremely dry weather.

The four challenges threatening the Mekong Delta

Located at the end of the Mekong River, the Mekong Delta of Vietnam was formed about 6,000 years from sediments of the river flowing into the sea plus the process of sea regression.

After the country’s unification in 1975, Vietnam embarked on the planning and exploitation of the delta. The country has successfully solved the alkaline, acidic and salty problems to develop agriculture, particularly rice cultivation in this region. In 1986, the total rice output of the Mekong Delta was around 7 million tones and currently i25 million tonnes, accounting for 90% of Vietnam’s total rice expert turnover.

EVENT: Strategic Environmental Assessment (SEA) in the Mekong region

On May 26, 2016 Pact and the International Center for Environmental Management (ICEM) invite you to a panel discussion on strategic environmental assessment as it relates to energy investments in the lower Mekong region. The discussion will be followed by a networking reception recognizing 25 government officials from the lower Mekong region who are participating in a workshop on the same topic.

Damned if you do, damned if you don’t

In the late 1980s, Chatichai Choonhavan’s government promised an ambitious water diversion project to provide a constant supply of water to the dry Northeast.

Local politicians promoted the Khong-Chi-Mun project, telling the expectant farmers of Isan they would never want for water again.

But today, locals such as Pha Kongtham, 65, from Ban Don Samran in Roi Et’s Phon Sai district sees nothing but the remnants of failure.

Under the project, which spanned various governments until realisation, 14 dams were built in the Chi and Mun rivers, the main water sources of lower Isan. But the majority of them have now stopped operating.

Downstream countries concerned over water diversion

“If Thailand’s Mekong diversion project takes place in the dry season, the Mekong’s water flows to Cambodia and Vietnam’s delta will be reduced significantly,” said Le Anh Tuan, deputy director of the Research Institute for Climate Change at Vietnam’s Can Tho University.

“The coastal areas of the delta will face serious saline intrusion. The agricultural production and water supply, as well as the ecosystems of the Mekong delta, will have big negative impacts.”

The drought has already caused significant damage to the Mekong delta. Mr Anh Tuan said as much as 70km of the mouth of the Mekong river had been contaminated by salt.