Upper Paunglaung hydropower project opened in Sittang River valley

Myanmar’s 140-MW Upper Paunglaung hydropower project officially opened this week in a ceremony that included officials from the country’s Minsitry of Electric Power and President U Thein Sein.

Located in central Myanmar along the Paunglaung River, the $24 million plant will help meet the country’s demand for power, which is increasing about 15 percent per year. An estimated 50 percent of Myanmar has no access to the power grid.

The hydropower project includes a 1,700-foot long, 322-foothigh “roller-compacted” concrete dam that will impound a reservoir of more than a million acre-feet. It will generate 454 million KWH and the electricity generated will be transmitted through the national power grid.

South Korea and Laos agree to work on hydropower project

South Korean Prime Minister Hwang Kyo-Ahn and his Lao counterpart, Thongsing Thammavong, agreed Monday to work closely on a hydro-power project in the Southeast Asian country, a South Korean official said.

The two sides had planned to sign a deal on the development of Sepon III hydro-power plant at their meeting, though they failed to ink the deal due to differences.

The two sides remain at odds over which country will build a road leading up to the power plant, among other things.

Mekong Region: Asia’s New Growth Center and Strategic Frontier

The Mekong countries of Cambodia, Laos, Myanmar, Thailand, and Vietnam are emerging to be not only the new growth center but also a new strategic frontier in Asia.

With a population of around 240 million and a combined GDP of $664 billion, the Mekong region has geopolitical significance and economic weight. It is located at the junction of the enormous emerging markets of Asia and their combined population of about 3.3 billion.

Myanmar’s landmark election and the likelihood of a peaceful and smooth power transition have drawn more international attention and interest to the Mekong region as a whole. Myanmar is expected to be a key regional actor and now possibly a catalyst of regional peace, democracy, and development.

Stop Sesan Dam, Locals Tell Gov’t

More than 90 percent of people affected by the $800 million Lower Sesan II hydroelectricity project want the government to halt construction of the dam and the area turned into one of the world’s largest eco-tourism reserves, a survey released yesterday by the NGO Forum found.

One of the survey’s authors, Kem Ley, who is also a political analyst, said the compensation and resettlement process was inconsistent and lacked transparency and the whole project was undermined by the lack of community consultation from the beginning.

“About 93 percent of those affected demand the government cancel the construction project because they don’t want to lose their culture and their burial and spiritual lands,” he said.

Ghost town ‘forgotten’ in Chiang Khong border trade

The freshly painted welcome signs at Chiang Khong market are conspicuous, greeting visitors as they cross the border from Laos. Few arrive however, and behind the signs they see only shuttered shops and scattered clothing sellers.

The “new town”, as some business operators called it after the opening of the fourth Thai-Lao Friendship Bridge across the Mekong River in 2013, is now known as a ghost town by locals.
Once a bustling trade development area, the market located just a kilometre from the bridge, has been a flop and doesn’t seem to be able to attract tourists.

But there is a chance the market could be resurrected, after Prime Minister Prayut Chan-o-cha’s government announced Chiang Rai would be the location for the second phase of the Special Economic Zones, set to be launched this year.

The New Mekong: Changes And Expectations

The construction of mainstream dams on the Mekong River pose significant environmental and social impacts for riparian communities in Cambodia and Vietnam. Vietnam National Mekong Committee’s Mekong Delta Study – set to be released in December 2015 – preliminarily predicted that hydropower dams will eliminate approximately 50 percent of fish catches in the region, which poses food security, public health, and economic crises in both Cambodia and Vietnam.

Villagers fight waiver of EIA for power plants

REPRESENTATIVES of people from seven provinces yesterday filed a complaint with the Central Administrative Court in Bangkok calling on the Natural Resources and Environment Ministry to revoke its announcement waiving environment impact assessments (EIA) for waste-fired power plants.

Climate initiatives must not include large hydropower projects – NGOs

In a global manifesto released on the 3 December, a coalition of more than 300 civil society organizations from 53 countries called on governments and financiers at the Paris climate talks to keep large hydropower projects out of climate initiatives such as the Clean Development Mechanism, the World Bank’s Climate Investment Funds, and green bonds.

Environmentalists Hope for Stronger Safeguards under NLD

In the wake of recent disasters that have shone a light on the human toll wrought by a lack of environmental and development-related safeguards, local activists are hoping to reverse Burma’s abysmal environmental protection record when a new government assumes office in March next year.

In July and August, swaths of the country were inundated by severe flooding, which in some areas triggered deadly mudslides, exacerbated in part by deforestation. Less than a week ago, a landslide near a jade mine in Kachin State’s Hpakant Township claimed more than 100 lives when a man-made mountain of earthen waste collapsed on workers’ makeshift huts.