China is demonstrating that it has real power to control and manage the Mekong River, as Beijing launches a diplomatic campaign to engage with affected countries downstream. This situation has become clear after China’s contacts with the other five countries along the river – Myanmar, Laos, Thailand, Cambodia and Vietnam. Physically, about half the nearly […]
Local activists have accused China of using the Mekong River’s water resources to increase its political power in the region.
The accusation came Tuesday as Prime Minister Prayut Chan-o-cha left Thailand for China for the opening day of the first Mekong-Lancang Cooperation meeting being held in Sanya, Hainan province, until tomorrow.
Thailand, Cambodia, Laos, Myanmar, Vietnam and China will discuss cooperation under the theme “Shared River, Shared Future”.
Earlier, China announced on March 10 it had released water from Jinghong dam in Yunnan, with further releases planned until April 10, to help ease the drought in Thailand and other countries in the sub-region.
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.
At first glance, it looks beneficent. As countries along the Lower Mekong river that snakes through mainland Southeast Asia struggled in the grip of a severe drought, China announced it would release water from its upstream Jinghong dam over nearly a month from March 15. The announcement was partly intended as a goodwill gesture one week ahead of the inaugural Lancang-Mekong Cooperation summit of leaders of the six Mekong region countries.
But while the water release will spell some immediate relief for the drought-stricken region, it portends future geopolitical tensions between China and its southern Mekong neighbors. Having unilaterally accumulated political power by exploiting geography and manipulating natural waterways through the construction of a slew of upriver dams, China appears intent to set the regional water management rules as it deems fit.
The Mekong, which the Chinese refer to as Lancang, is Asia’s seventh-longest river and provides livelihoods and habitats for riverfront communities and natural wildlife throughout its meandering flow from China and Myanmar to Laos and Thailand, down to Cambodia and Vietnam before it reaches the sea. China’s damming of the upper Mekong has long been considered a geopolitical risk for the lower riparian states and a source of potential conflict for the entire Greater Mekong Subregion — encompassing Cambodia, China, Laos, Myanmar, Thailand and Vietnam. That risk has manifested itself in an inchoate fashion through the annual dry seasons, when about 60 million people in fishing villages and communities along the Mekong are severely affected. But any protest has been silenced by geopolitical realities.
Environmental scholars and a network of Civil Society Organizations protested against NCPO’s order no. 9/2559 which permits the state enterprises to select private companies to initiate their projects before an environmental impact assessment (EIA) gets approval. On March 10, the Ministry of Natural Resources and Environment as the primary agency responsible for the preparation for EIA reports, clarified regarding the concerns raised by academics and the CSO network that called for review and cancellation of the order.
In plain words, the NCPO’s order No.9/2559 can only quicken projects when it assumes the EIA and EHIA will be approved as a rubber stamp. All other attempts to justify it are illogical.
But then again, there is a similar failed logic here as in past suggestions that people grow velvet beans instead of rice, shower less in the face of drought or refrain from making sparks to avoid wildfires.
As the military regime lingers on, the daily dose of illogicality is increasing and becomes more flagrant. If a fast-track solution is ever needed, it’s to expedite the exit of one immodest man’s rule to the more sensible one-man, one-vote.
Much of the mighty Salween River continues to flow freely. Beginning in the Tibetan Himalayan Mountain Range, the river meanders through China’s Yunnan Province where it runs parallel to the Mekong and Yangtze Rivers, forming the Three Parallel Rivers of Yunnan Protected Areas, a UNESCO World Heritage site. It then flows across the Burma (Myanmar) border into Shan State, and on into Kayah (Karenni) State, forming the border between Burma, in Karen State, and Thailand, in the Mae Sariang and Sob Moei Districts of Mae Hong Son, before flowing into Mon State and emptying into the sea at Moulmein. The entire length of the river is 2,800 kilometers.
The Salween River is home to a large number of diverse ethnic groups and is a rich hub of natural resources. It is a highly complex ecosystem, teeming with life. Unlike other major rivers around the world, the Salween remains largely untouched by man-made developments.
Commission added ‘community rights’ in the charter draft and required projects that have impacts on health to do EIA. At the same time, the revised provision also stipulates that the public have the right to file complaints against state agencies if they fail to comply with this charter.
A large crowd gathered together to protest the government controversial plan to build coal-fired power plant in Krabi province. The villagers welcomed the arrival of members of Thailand’s National Legislative Assembly (NLA) members and symbolic protested Krabi coal-fired power plant by standing in a row holding 50-meter-long banner “No Krabi Coal-Fired Power Plant” in front of the City Hall. Many environmentalists and locals have expressed concerns about the plan, fearing its environmental impacts, which could worsen the security situation in the already volatile Deep South.
Thai government plans to allocate about 195,000 rai of state land in 47 provinces for landless poor so they will have a land plot to build a living quarter and to make a living. Government spokesman said that the government intends to narrow the gap of social disparity by distributing land plots in degraded forest, public land, land for land reform project to the landless poor.
The Thai junta enacted a new order to cut short the process to conduct Environmental Impact Assessment on mega project constructions.
On Tuesday, 8 March 2016, the public website of the Royal Gazette published the latest order of the National Council for Peace and Order (NCPO), Order 9/2016.
The title of the NCPO’s Order 9/2016 reads ‘Additional Laws on Promotion and Protection of the Quality of Nation’s Environment’
The order was authorised on Monday by Gen Prayut Chan-o-cha, the junta leader and Prime Minister, who invoked authorities under Section 44 of the Interim Constitution which gives the regime absolute power, to enact it with immediate effect.
Some 196 square kilometers along Myanmar’s west coast is slated for transformation into a deep sea port and industrial estate unrivaled anywhere else in the region.