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Major Study Warns Planned Dams May Severely Harm Mekong Delta

A major new study warns that a planned cascade of hydropower dams along the Mekong River could cause “very high adverse effects on some of the key sectors and environmental resources in Cambodia and Viet Nam.”

Viet Nam’s Ministry of Natural Resources and Environment has just publicly released “Study on the Impacts of Mainstream Hydropower on the Mekong River”, also known as the “Delta Study.” The study used models to simulate various dam construction scenarios. And the results raise alarm bells for the over 60 million people who rely on the Mekong Delta for their livelihoods.

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Mass fish deaths in central Vietnam point finger at industrial wastewater discharge

A fisherman in the central province of Ha Tinh has reported to local authorities that he saw a sewage pipe a Taiwanese steel manufacturer may have installed to discharge wastewater directly into the sea in an area where a huge number of fish have died recently.
Nguyen Xuan Thanh, 36, of Ky Anh town told officers at a border guard station that he found the pipe by chance while diving to catch fish on April 4.

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Myanmar: The Dawei Special Economic Zone

Investor confidence in the long-delayed Dawei special economic zone (DSEZ) is growing after Japan signed on as a third equal partner with Myanmar and Thailand this December. Japan’s backing may finally kick start construction of the billion dollar project that has been crippled by funding shortfalls since 2013. If it’s ever finished, the deep-seaport is expected to rival the one in Singapore, opening a new gateway to the Malacca Strait from the western Myanmar seaboard. The 196 square km special economic zone – scaled down from initial estimates of 204.5 square km – would become one the biggest industrial parks in Southeast Asia.

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Prey Lang Protection Moves Forward

The Environment Minister said he would draw up a proposal to protect the remainder of Prey Lang’s roughly 300,000 hectares after flying over the area with the US Ambassador, NGOs and development partners yesterday.

Minister Say Sam Al said the announcement was a turning point for the government, calling on all development partners to cooperate with each other in order to reach an agreement.

“The size of the last forest was more than 300,000 hectares. Now it’s a good sign for us to make an agreement to make Prey Lang a protected area at once. It’s not an easy issue, it’s a difficult issue,” he said.

The minister added that he has been studying Prey Lang with local authorities and will organize a workshop in the next few days to discuss the proposal before sending a sub-decree to the Council of Ministers for approval. “What we did with the ambassador was preparing Prey Lang as a protected area.

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Cambodian Forestry Campaigner Awarded 2016 Goldman Environmental Prize

Activist Ouch Leng has received international recognition for his work documenting illegal logging and land abuses in Cambodia over the past two decades.

The Goldman Environmental Foundation on Monday announced that Ouch Leng was among six grassroots campaigners from around the world to be awarded the 2016 Goldman Environmental Prize, which recognizes their efforts to protect the environment and means more financial support for their causes.

“It’s an honor for Cambodia and its people,” Ouch Leng told VOA Khmer after hearing about his award.

He dedicated the award to his countrymen who are fighting to preserve Cambodia’s remaining forests in the face of rampant illegal logging and damaging government policies.

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Mekong Dams Not Cause of Drought

Prime Minister Hun Sen on Monday disputed the idea that water shortages along the Mekong River have been exacerbated by two massive hydropower dams being developed by Laos, saying the drought currently afflicting much of mainland Southeast Asia was caused only by “the sky.”

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Securing the Mekong Delta water supply

The current severe drought and rise in sea level has caused saline intrusion in the Sai Gon and Dong Nai rivers. The two rivers supply raw water to more than 10 million residents and to businesses.

The high saline rate along with household and industrial pollutants in the river water has threatened the city’s water supply.

Water treatment plants in HCM City have had to shut down numerous times because raw water taken from the Sai Gon and Dong Nai was below standard.

The salinity rate in the rivers is at the highest level of the last five years, affecting operations of some of the pumping stations that supply water to the city.

Water pollution has become more serious in the Dong Nai River, which supplies 4,000 cu.m water per person in HCM City each year.

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Dolphin calves born in the Mekong

The Mekong River now has so many dams that one of the world’s mightiest rivers could almost run dry. In the dry season, river levels do in fact become dangerous for the rare river dolphins, Orcaella brevirostris Illegal fishermen and stranding opportunities increase, but the good news this March, as river levels rise again, is that no animals were lost and 3 calves were born near the delta. 688 river guards protect the dolphins and the river in Cambodia and the Lao PDR, and that investment surely must be helping! The WWF report the story here.

Many plants and animals rely on the might flow of the Mekong, with 1100 fish species alone, thousands of insects, mammals, amphibians, birds and reptiles well-known to researchers. The dolphins feed on fish, cephalopods and crustacea, facing intense competition from humpback and bottlenose dolphins when at the coast. Perhaps the 90 or so dolphins in Lao PDR and Cambodia can act as suitable emblems of the extinction possibilities threatening the rainforest and the riverine species. This dolphin is classed as Vulnerable, according to the IUCN Red Book classification, like many others of its order and so many others in the rapidly disappearing habitats around SE Asia.

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Vietnam’s lowlands to go under with climate change, bank report says

When it comes to climate change, Vietnam’s Ho Chi Minh City is one of the world’s 10 most vulnerable cities.

As a result, around 70 per cent of its urban area may experience severe flooding in coming decades, according to a recent Asian Development Bank report.

The bank’s assessment is based on the United Nations’ projections of a 26-centimetre sea level rise by 2050.

Local authorities are taking the threat seriously, recently announcing flood-prevention measures of almost $US7 billion ($9 billion) over the next five years.

But the southern economic powerhouse, formerly Saigon and one of the fastest growing and most polluted cities in the country, is not the only Vietnamese centre at risk.

About 60 per cent of the country’s urban areas are a mere 1.5 metres above sea level and extreme climate events are increasing and widespread.