Mekong Eye

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  • Commission chief insists ‘imperfect’ body has river basin’s interests at heart


    AS THE Mekong region faces intensifying challenges from developments needed by its riparian countries including Laos’ latest mega-project, the Pak Beng Dam, the Mekong River Commission (MRC) insists that it is still the best institutional arrangement to ensure sustainable development for the basin.

    Pham Tuan Phan, who assumed the post of MRC chief executive this year, stressed that point while delivering his presentation about the organisation, empowered by the 1995 Mekong Agreement, at the Greater Mekong Forum last week, where leading river experts and policy-makers attended to find out the best approach to ensure the river’s sustainable development.

  • A call for basin-wide energy plans


    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.

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


    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.”

  • Path to Responsible Mining


    In an effort to improve the governance of the Kingdom’s mining industry, with a focus on increasing revenue generation, the government has approved 11 articles largely concerning export permits for mined resources.

    “Except for uranium and any reactor [related] mining which is banned from being exported, export permits have to be mainly evaluated for the long-term purpose – based on the comparative advantage and benefit to the economy, society and the environment.”

    Meng Saktheara, secretary of state at the ministry told Khmer Times yesterday that the sub-decree is complementary to the existing mining law which had been promulgated since 2001.

    “This sub-decree is to be used to manage any kinds of mining production except oil and gas. We do hope that the sub-decree sets strong and clear guidelines for the industry that can attract more foreign investors.”

    “It provides us with clear mechanisms to manage the industry, as we will automatically allow exports if the product can be processed locally,” he said, noting the importance of adding value to the country’s mined resources.

    Last month, the Ministry of Mines and Energy issued Cambodia’s first industrial mining license to Indian-owned Mesco Gold (Cambodia) to start operating an underground gold mine in Ratanakiri province.

    According to ministry data, over 20 gold occurrences, 15 base metals occurrences and 26 iron ore and related occurrences have been identified. Work is continuing on some 60 active concessions to further delineate the country’s mineral wealth, with a particular emphasis on gold, base metals and bauxite.

    According to the sub-decree, any mined resource which can be processed locally, and therefore boost its “value-added,” will not be allowed to be exported.

    “It can be allowed to be exported if it cannot be processed locally due to the impact [it may cause] to the environment or because the amount of product exceeds local demand,” it said.

    According to data from ministry, the before-tax revenue from the mining industry has sharply increased. In 2015 the figure was $17.25 million, up from just $4 million the year before.

    Cambodia is at the early stages of mineral resource development. As part of a prospective region with a burgeoning exploration sector, the country has an opportunity to lay the foundations for responsible mining.

  • Vietnam playing ‘key Mekong sub-region role’


    VIETNAM has been making practical contributions to turning the Mekong sub-region into a dynamic and prosperous economic area via two crucial cooperation frameworks. That is according to the country’s Deputy Prime Minister and Foreign Minister Pham Binh Minh, who spoke before meetings of those cooperations, the 8th Cambodia-Laos-Myanmar-Vietnam Summit (CLMV-8) and the 7th Ayeyawady-Chao Phraya-Mekong Economic Coopera-tion Strategy Summit (ACMECS-7) which will be held in Hanoi on October 25 and 26.

  • Environmental destruction is a crime: Vietnamese industry minister


    Vietnamese Minister of Industry and Trade Tran Tuan Anh says pollution is a crime against the environment and calls on all major corporations to commit themselves towards environmental protection during their operations.

    Power plant, coal mine, and mineral mine developers across Vietnam gathered on Thursday afternoon for a meeting to address environmental issues regarding their operations.

  • Coal-fired power plants threaten Vietnam deltas


    Vietnam’s plan to take its total number of coal-fired power plants to 31 by 2020 has raised environmental concerns.

    To minimize costs and the loss of electrical power during transmission, thermal power plants in Vietnam are usually built near large economic centers of the country’s Red River Delta and Mekong Delta regions, where electricity usage is at its highest.

    Environmental hazards caused by these types of power plants came to the fore in April 2015, when coal ashes from Vinh Tan 2 Thermal Power Station in Binh Thuan Province spread to nearby residential areas due to low levels of air humidity.

  • Renewable energy gains offer us a cleaner future


    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”.

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