As the third and final consultation phase on the second draft of the World Bank’s proposed new environmental and social framework (ESF), replacing the current safeguards, progresses, civil society organisations (CSOs), the UN and certain member states continue to demand that the Bank incorporates human rights in all its activities (see Observer Autumn 2015, Winter […]
More than 200 representatives from Kalonehtar village in Dawei organized a spiritual ceremony last week to symbolize their ongoing protest against the mega Dawei Special Economic Zone to be built under a joint venture deal between the Thai, Maymar and Japan governments. Under the current project plan about 1,000 villagers would be resettled to pave way for a reservoir to feed the new industry complex.
“We believe that we have the right to determine our own sustainable future on our native lands,’ they declared. “We, the Kalonehtar villagers, will not move from our native place and we will not accept any project that does not respect our right to Free, Prior and Informed Consent. We do not support any part of the Dawei SEZ project.”
Villagers in Ayeyarwady Region, Mon State and elsewhere across Myanmar are refusing to accept plans for power projects in their neighbourhoods, fearful pollution will harm their health, farms and fisheries. Evidence from around the world, including China, India and Thailand, suggests they are right to be worried.
In 2014, energy use caused damage worldwide amounting to US$5.3 trillion, according to analysts’ estimates at the International Monetary Fund. Of that, $5.124 trillion was due to fossil fuels with two-thirds attributed to coal. Climate change accounted for a quarter of the costs, with the rest due to sickness, premature death and degradation of the environment.
Analysts believe the damage adds up to 8-16 per cent of GDP for developing countries in Asia, which for Myanmar equates to $4-8 billion in 2014.
Even after losing a battle in the Thailand Administrative Court, a group of Thai villagers are not giving up. They have filed appeal after losing the first community-led lawsuit in the region to challenge a large dam on the Mekong river.
On 25 Dec 2015 the Administrative Court ruled in favour of five Thai state agencies accused of ‘illegally’ signing an agreement to buy power from the 1,200-megawatt Xayaburi dam in Laos – the first dam to be built on the mainstream of the Lower Mekong river.
The Lao government recently opened the construction site of the Don Sahong Hydropower project, located in the Khon Falls area of Mekong River in Champassak Province, to all agencies concerned about the latest development of it, Lao News Agency reported.
The objective of the opening is to address any concerns among domestic or international agencies and provide them the opportunity to see and observe for themselves that the project is being carried out in compliance with international standards and the 1995 Mekong Agreement.
The price of property in Dawei has risen beyond the reach of local residents as investors from overseas and Upper Myanmar buy up land in anticipation of a new special economic zone.
While the zone has been eight years in the making, there are still few signs of development on the ground. However, recent announcements that construction is moving ahead, combined with escalating conflict in the north of the country, has led to a rise in real estate investment in the area, local residents said.
Buying property in Tanintharyi Region is an “adventure for investors” they added, as township authorities have no specific land-use policies and land ownership documents are scarce. It is therefore hard to discover who owns the land, as sellers often do not transfer ownership in written form.
Plans to evaluate mineral reserves and marine natural resources and to help residents better adapt to climate change nationwide – especially in the Cuu Long (Mekong) Delta region, the area predicted to suffer the most from climate change – are high up on the Ministry of Natural Resources and Environment’s agenda this year.
Minister Nguyen Minh Quang announced the priorities at a recent press conference to outline the environment sector’s targets this year.
Quang said the country’s natural resources were expected to be effectively managed when the detailed evaluation was released. At present, the country was facing many environmental issues triggered by the overexploitation of minerals.
Myanmar’s government currently collects much of the trillions of kyat generated by oil, gas, gemstones and other minerals each year, primarily through its state-owned economic enterprises (SEEs). In the face of such centralized control over revenue, many ethnic groups have long asserted their right to make decisions over resource management in their states. In fact, combatants in areas of active conflict and leaders from several ethnic minority parties—particularly those associated with Kachin, Rakhine and Shan states—have openly called for greater resource revenue sharing.
ACTIVISTS have voiced concern that a coal-fired power plant proposed for Thepa district in Songkhla will cause more violence in the Deep South – as mosques, a religious school and Muslim cemeteries would have to be moved to make way for the plant.
They also claimed that all three public hearings about the plant and its coal transport pier were not held properly. They have said the Office of Natural Resources and Environmental Policy and Planning (ONEP) should revoke the Environmental and Health Impact Assessment (EHIA) on the project.
Yesterday, the Southernmost People’s Network of Community Right and Environment Safeguard for Peace (Permatamas) and a group of locals and students from Prince of Songkla University’s Pattani Campus gathered at ONEP to give a petition to the agency’s secretary general.
The fallout from the Great Fall in financial markets, equities and currencies is ricocheting through the regional economy and beginning to exact a toll – initially among badly-run companies and poorly-managed government institutions.