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  • A call for basin-wide energy plans

    11/08/2016

    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.

    However, our ongoing research and communication with regional policymakers provides compelling evidence that not all of the planned dams will be built due to rising political and financial risks in the region. As a consequence, we have concluded in our most recent report that it is not too late for the adoption of a new approach that would optimise the inescapable “nexus” of tradeoffs among energy generation, food security, and water use and better protect the core ecology of the river system for the benefit of future generations.

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

    11/08/2016

    In recent weeks, violent clashes in Kayin State have further disrupted Myanmar’s fragile peace process. Fighting between the Democratic Karen Buddhist Army (DKBA) and the government-sponsored Border Guard Force (BGF) in Mae Tha Waw areas of Hlaingbwe township, and more recently near Kawkareik township, has displaced over a thousand people. Entire families have fled their homes and are left stranded with limited access to food and assistance, producing nothing short of a humanitarian crisis. Across the border in Thailand, nearly 60,000 people remain in refugee camps, having fled ongoing conflict over the past two decades.

  • In Vietnam, telling the truth is criminal ‘propaganda’

    10/24/2016

    On Oct. 10, police in the south-central province of Khanh Hoa arrested a popular blogger, Nguyen Ngoc Nhu Quynh, 37, who writes under the pen name Mother Mushroom. She is co-founder of a network of independent bloggers who often find themselves in the crosshairs of a regime that strictly controls the news media and does not tolerate dissent. Radio Free Asia quoted the network as protesting that Ms. Quynh is an “activist who has advocated for human rights, improved living conditions for people, and sovereignty for many years.”

  • Renewable energy gains offer us a cleaner future

    10/03/2016

    China has made a number of significant steps towards building a future of more sustainable energy.

    President Xi Jinping has made good on his commitment to increase the supply of renewable energy at the climate change conference in Paris last year, a time when the toxic smog choking streets in Beijing and Shanghai was making global headlines. I wrote about this at the time in my column “China’s energy paradox”.

  • Asia: Heading towards a seismic shift

    09/26/2016

    In a decade’s time, visitors to Asean, South and North Asia may find their personal experiences in their respective destinations differ quite drastically.

    Each Asian nation is busy operating at its own pace, plotting a new stage of economic development and growth – despite ongoing global economic uncertainty.

    In the process of this seismic shift, some countries have chosen to work in partnerships while others are tackling the challenges alone. All of them reflect Asia’s unique aspiration to take on global competitive pressure. Some nations aim to get out of the middle-income trap, while others want to secure a higher standard of living for their people.

  • Hurdles for environmental impact assessments

    09/19/2016

    What is the biggest challenge in carrying out an environmental impact assessment (EIA) for a project in Việt Nam?
    As we all know, an EIA is a scientific process that comes up with some projection of the environmental impacts that a project may cause to its surroundings. But currently, an EIA is expected to come up with assessments on areas that do not belong to its ‘original task’ like social impact assessments (SIA), health impact assessments (HIA) and risk assessments (RA).

    Though the work demanded for a good EIA report is large, the capital resources allocated for EIAs in Việt Nam is very limited – between just 1-10 per cent of the average resources it receives in other countries. That’s the key reason why an EIA report in Việt Nam is not as comprehensive and independent as it should be.

  • Why silt is so important for the Mekong

    09/15/2016

    Just as forests are more than only trees, rivers are more than water. The Mekong river carries massive loads of sediment and nutrients from upstream to downstream and across national borders, replenishing and enriching the land as it goes. This process is key to sustaining the ecological integrity of the river and surrounding landscapes, which in turn supports the economy.

    However, a boom in sand mining and hydropower development on the Mekong is transforming the river’s sediment flows, with profound consequences for the region if left unchecked. For a prosperous, sustainable future for the region, all Mekong countries must come together now and adopt international standards for managing transboundary river resources.

  • Get your face masks out for ‘coal tourism’

    08/31/2016

    My trip to Songkhla in the south of Thailand earlier this week was not a typical sightseeing jaunt, but it was certainly worthwhile.

    My destination was not Muang district which is famous for its old-town quarters or Hat Yai, the well-known shopping district of the southern region, but a pristine beach in Thepa’s tambon Pak Bang which is the designated site for a controversial coal-fired power plant.

  • A responsible press can help empower Myanmar’s young, growing democracy

    08/04/2016

    As a voracious consumer of Myanmar journalism over some time, I am fascinated by how the country’s transition to freedom of the press takes root and prospers.

    Progress toward press freedom has occurred very rapidly in Myanmar since 2012, but we still see too many instances of journalists being detained and even charged over what they have published.

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