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  • Land Conflict Victims Call for a Stop to Lake Filling

    04/01/2016

    More than 300 protesters from about 40 communities affected by land disputes throughout the country launched the Free the Lakes campaign yesterday, marching through the capital to the National Assembly accompanied by monks before submitting a petition to the governing body. The protesters gathered on a large swathe of sand-filled area that was formerly Boeung […]

  • Tenasserim Chief Minister Lei Lei Maw: ‘We Will Rebuild Our Country’

    03/30/2016

    Lei Lei Maw, a sitting lawmaker in the regional legislature for Tenasserim Division, was appointed chief minister of the division on Monday, becoming one of Burma’s first females to hold the position.

    Burma’s state and divisional parliaments this week announced the incoming regional heads, appointed by President-elect Htin Kyaw, and the list included two women—Lei Lei Maw and Karen State’s Nang Khin Htwe Myint. Despite pro-democracy icon Aung San Suu Kyi’s prominence in Burma, women have been largely excluded from top political posts in her incoming National League for Democracy (NLD) government.

    Lei Lei Maw, 51, is a medical doctor who joined the NLD in 2012 and ran in the November 2015 general election, representing Thayetchaung constituency. The ethnic Karen-Burman, Christian, and mother of four has run a private clinic for more than 20 years and has delivered free health care in remote villages.

    She will succeed the Union Solidarity and Development Party’s (USDP) Myat Ko, who sought re-election in 2015 but was defeated. The ceremonial transfer of power will occur on Wednesday night in Naypyidaw.

    The Irrawaddy spoke with Lei Lei Maw following her parliamentary appointment on Monday.

  • Drowning in generosity

    03/29/2016

    Again?” Chai Tamuen, 42, thought when he saw Mekong water rising at the riverbank of Chiang Khan district in Loei eight days ago.

    Overnight, water had engulfed the sandy shore of Kaeng Khut Khu, a tourist spot popular for swimming and recreation, leaving stalls stranded on an “island” now surrounded by water.

    As a vendor, Mr Chai was forced to leave his kiosk four days later when water submerged half of the island.

    “This is not the first time that the bank has been flooded in dry season. It’s happened like this for the last five years,” he said.

    “We can’t predict water. Our income has not been stable since Chinese dams have taken control over the water upstream.”

    China announced on March 14 it would discharge a massive quantity of water from one of its dams, claiming it would help communities in the Mekong region facing severe drought.

  • The grand vision for mainland China’s Nu River can become a model for the region

    03/29/2016

    China’s slowing economy would not seem a good time to scrap hydroelectric dam projects. That would seem especially so in southwest Yunnan’s Nu River valley, among the nation’s poorest regions. Yet provincial authorities have decided to put the way of life of villagers and the environment first by calling a halt to small-scale schemes. It is a hopeful sign for those in the area and downstream in Myanmar and Thailand who rely on the waters for their livelihoods.

    The valley is a Unesco World Heritage site included for its scenery and biodiversity, accounting for 6,000 different types of plants and half of China’s animal and fish species. Plans in 2004 for a 13-dam cascade to be built in the upper reaches of the Nu were shelved under pressure the following year, but revived in 2013 on a lesser scale with an eye on meeting national renewal energy targets. The province’s Communist Party chief, Li Jiheng, said earlier this month that projects for coal mines and small hydro plants beside the river and on tributaries would not go ahead. In five to 10 years, with vegetation restored, the valley would be a tourist attraction rivaling the US’ Grand Canyon.

  • Thais must face up to China reality

    03/28/2016

    There has always been a special bond between China and Thailand, which hosts the largest overseas Chinese community in the world. In Thai culture, the Chinese influence is easily traced, through descendants whose origins can be found in rural areas of the southern Chinese mainland, from where their ancestors fled poverty, communism and political oppression to the more hospitable environs of Thailand.

    China has always been perceived as a friend — a friend indeed who never leaves a friend in need. The phrase is not just a cliche. Comrades from the mainland have proven their love. During the tom yam koong economic crisis in 1997, this friend lent the debt-ridden Thailand much-needed funds, while other friends gave it the cold shoulder.

  • The Manual: Community consultation and monitoring on the impact of hydropower

    03/28/2016

    According to the report of the Commission on Science, Technology, Environment and Government, by 2013 Vietnam has had 113 terraced Hydroelectric power plants on some major rivers and 1,108 small hydropower plants are now being projected. The development of this manual is important as it illustrates the many evidences of hydropower impacts on the environment and society. This manual was produced when state policies and guidelines were aimed at promoting the role of community participation and supervision.

  • Deforestation threatens Vietnam’s rare monkey

    03/25/2016

    After trekking the leech-ridden jungle from dawn to dusk for days on end, exhaustion was starting to show on the conservation team’s sweaty faces and damp gear.

    Midway into a 10-day field assignment in Vietnam, the team had no more than two good photographs of the critically endangered grey-shanked douc to show on their long-range cameras. They needed a lot more.

    Such is the elusiveness of the rare monkey – even the experts have a hard time trailing it.

    The grey-shanked douc can only be found in the remote forests of Vietnam’s Central Highlands. Until the recent discovery of a new population of 500 doucs by a survey team from Fauna & Flora International, the species was believed to have as few as 800 remaining in the wild.

    Visible snare lines and the absence of gibbons and larger mammals in the jungle point to heavy hunting in the past, said Mr Jonathan Eames, who leading a photography and book project on the primate.

  • Civil society groups demand halt to Hpakant jade mining

    03/23/2016

    Civil society organisations meeting in the Kachin State mining town of Hpakant have called for a suspension of all jade mining projects, saying the industry is costing lives, ruining the environment and fuelling conflict.

    “Until rules, laws and regulations are legislated and enacted, jade businesses and projects should be halted. Proper policy guidelines, laws, mechanisms, and rules and regulations for the extractive industry should be legislated as fast as possible,” the groups said in a statement directed at the incoming NLD government.

    Their call for a suspension of mining activities in Kachin State echoed a call for a moratorium on oil and gas production in Rakhine State that was issued yesterday by Arakan Oil Watch, an NGO that is campaigning for the devolution of management and ownership of natural resources.

  • China agrees to share data on its dams

    03/22/2016

    China has agreed to share information on the management of dams in the Mekong River, known as Lancang in China, with other countries connected to the river, says Ministry of Natural Resources and Environment spokesman Suphot Tovichakchaikul.

    The move aims to reduce the impact of these dams on millions of people who reside around the lower part of the Mekong River, he added.

  • Mekong Drought Worsens Amid Doubts Over Lao Promises

    03/22/2016

    Drought in Southeast Asia is raising concerns in the Cambodian and Vietnamese countryside where salinity levels are rising in the Mekong River and people are skeptical about fresh promises from Laos that it will respect the rights of downstream countries in dam construction.

    The reassurances from Vientiane were delivered by Bounhang Vorachith, who was recently named secretary-general of the Laos Communist Party, sparking hopes he might show a more conciliatory approach to negotiations with countries who share use of the Mekong River.

    “Laos will make an effort to ensure that there will be no impact,” Bounhang recently told the Cambodia government in regards to Vientaine’s plans to build 11 dams along the Mekong River and their impact on neighboring countries.

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