The fate of 70 million people rests on what happens to the Mekong river. With world leaders meeting in Paris next week for crucial UN climate talks, John Vidal journeys down south-east Asia’s vast waterway – a place that encapsulates some of the dilemmas they must solve. He meets people struggling to deal with the impacts of climate change as well as the ecological havoc created by giant dams, deforestation, coastal erosion and fast-growing cities
China aims to complete laying a 418-kilometre (260-mile) railway from a border town to Laos by 2020, the official China Economic Herald reported, as the economic giant seeks a new route into the emerging markets of Southeast Asia.
The two countries agreed on Friday to jointly build a 40-billion yuan ($6.28 billion) railway from the border town of Boten to the Laos capital Vientiane, the Herald reported.
The deal was announced at a signing ceremony attended by senior officials from the National Development & Reform Commission the country’s top economic planner, China Railway Corporation and the Export-Import Bank of China, the paper said.
Laos, poor and landlocked, has traditionally been firmly in the orbit of its larger neighbour to the east, Vietnam.
But China has been aggressively courting Laos as it sees the communist-ruled country as an important route into Southeast Asia, and its ports on the Mekong River for landlocked parts of southwestern China such as Yunnan.
Thailand’s listed power producer Ratchaburi Electricity Generating Holding PCL (RATCH) plans to invest around $1 billion in power plants in Indonesia, Laos and China, a top official with the company said.
The company expects its aggressive investment to double its electricity production capacity to 8,000 megawatts, increasing its enterprise value from the current level of 124 billion baht to 188 billion baht by 2018.
Rum Herabat, the newly-appointed chief executive officer, said the company is looking at three main approaches to increase business. These include – exploring new investments, managing efficiency of main power plants and completing construction of new power plants as planned.
The potential projects, for which the company is conducting feasibility studies and negotiation include, 2,000-MW JAWA7 in Indonesia, 400-MW Sekong 4 hydropower project in Lao PDR, seven solar farms projects for the public sector in Thailand (with a combined capacity of 35 MW) and 2,000-MW power plant project in China.
A leaked WWF report exposes the scale of illegal logging in Laos. Almost all of timber exports from Laos go to Vietnam and China. In 2013, Laos exported 1.4 million cubic metres of timber to these two countries. That’s more than 10 times the official timber harvest in Laos.
This issue brief – the second in Stimson’s “Letters from the Mekong” series – examines the current status of mitigation efforts at Laos’ Xayaburi and Don Sahong dam projects and the relevance of the existing narrative surrounding hydropower development on the river’s mainstream. Based on extensive research on the status and expected impacts of these projects, the authors of this brief have concluded that the current narrative of inevitability surrounding the future of the Mekong is increasingly at odds with what is in fact a very fluid situation. Instead of being the first two of up to nine or eleven mainstream “dominos” to fall, these commercial-opportunity projects are likely to face significantly increasing political and financial risks and uncertainties.
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.
An environmental watchdog based in Viet Nam is asking the Laos government to reconsider the construction of a controversial hydropower plant along the Mekong River. The non-governmental organisation Viet Nam River Network issued a press release last Friday stating that the Don Sahong project, the second largest dam approved by the Laos government, would adversely affect the area.
The Lao government’s changes to regulations on domestic nonprofit associations will hinder the work of the groups and slow down development projects in the impoverished Southeast Asian nation, an NGO official said Friday.
The Bangkok Post looks at the northeastern province of Mukdahan, which borders Laos, in the third of a six-part series on special economic zones.
A public consultation organized by the Mekong River Commission was held in Pakse, Laos, last week, where opponents continued to call for Laos to reconsider a controversial dam project.