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NEWS DIGEST #213

February 13, 2019

China advising on Myanmar's hydro policy as govt backs away from IFC assessment - Frontier Myanmar
China is advising Myanmar's Ministry of Electricity and Energy on a white paper for hydropower policy at the same time as pressuring to revive the long-stalled Myitsone dam. This has cast significant doubt on Myanmar’s commitment to the key recommendation in the IFC's SEA that five of its mainstem rivers, including the Ayeyarwady and Thanlwin (Salween), be reserved from hydropower development.
How the case against an alleged poaching kingpin fell apart - National Geographic
The outcome is emblematic of the weakness of prosecution in places like Thailand.
 
Agri-tourism attracts more visitors to Mekong Delta - Vietnam Net
Farmers have developed agri-tourism models that increase incomes and fuel sustainable agricultural and rural development.
Navigating coverage of climate change and agriculture: CIAT and partners host webinars for journalists during February
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MEKONG DEVELOPMENT

The fight to preserve the Khon Pi Luang rapids - The Interpreter 
China wants to further enhance the sense that is already growing--it is playing a dominating role in the Mekong below its own borders. 

The Mekong region is caught in a tug-of-war - East Asia Forum
The autocratisation of the Mekong region has significant implications at a time when its giant neighbor China continues a long march to the south. 

Upgrade infrastructure to attract global manufacturing, GMS told - Myanmar Times
There is a significant need for Mekong region countries to upgrade their infrastructure to take on a larger share of global manufacturing, said Sok Siphana, chairman of independent Cambodian think-tank Asian Vision Institute (AVI).

Talks focus on linking World Heritage sites - TRT Weekly
Linking the Mekong Region’s heritage towns, many of them designated UNESCO World Heritage sites, has been on and off the table for decades.

CAMBODIA

Government aims to tackle drought - Phnom Penh Post
The Ministry of Industry and Handicrafts on Monday said that 100 percent of people in urban areas will have reliable access to clean water by 2025 as the government takes action to tackle drought and other effects of climate change. (See also: UNDP & DanChurchAid helping drought proof Cambodia - AEC News Today; Trucks deployed to provide water - Khmer Times)

Project aims to test climate change response strategies - Phnom Penh Post
The Ministry of Environment has funded a Cambodia Climate Change Alliance project and selected five schools to test climate change response strategies by planting trees and developing gardens with increased biodiversity.

Land row villagers see hope - Phnom Penh Post
The Preah Vihear provincial authority and other relevant parties issued a statement that contained five points aimed to end a land dispute between 330 families and private company Metrei Pheap.

Brexit and EU sanctions threaten to push Cambodia into economic crisis - Nikkei Asian Review
Cambodia is teetering on the verge of economic crisis, as it faces higher export tariffs into Britain due to Brexit at a time when the European Union is considering suspending duty-free access to punish Prime Minister Hun Sen for political suppression. (See also: Cambodia slams ‘unjust decision’ by EU to proceed with ending preferential trade status - RFA)

Illegal logging denied in Mondulkiri province - Khmer Times
Activist Heng Sros, 24, from the Cambodian Human Rights Task Force, said that the private companies received permission to transport high quality timber to Vietnam. (See also: CYP to investigate deforestation - Khmer Times; Environment ministry works to better identify timber sources - Phnom Penh Post)

LAOS

Laos endorses national green growth strategy - Xinhua
The World Bank, the Global Green Growth Institute and other development partners provided financial and technical support in developing the strategy.

Gallery: The China-built railway cutting through Laos -  China Dialogue
The Lao government hopes the passenger and freight railway will boost tourism and trade and bring prosperity to its seven million citizens. 

Rail link to boost Lao, Thai economies - Borneo Bulletin 
Thailand's Khon Kaen Governor Dr Somsak Changtragul said he is sure that will happen once the Laos-China railway is complete. The railway will play a significant role in linking the two countries that will, in turn, translate as big investments for both.

Laos’ rapid economic growth path has so far avoided macroeconomic cliffs - East Asia Forum
Macroeconomic instability remains a worry due to growing public debt, revenue shortfalls, financial sector risks and limited buffers to shocks.

Journey from resource exploitation to knowledge economy a long road (opinion) - Laotian Times
What are you going to do when you grow up? It’s a question relevant to socio-economics as well as people as policymakers discuss “Vision 2020-2025”. 

Surpassing opium proves personal as coffee grows - Laotian Times
Bringing fresh hope and a hot coffee like a brand new day, Vanmai Coffee is a community of families in Northern Laos, growing coffee in a bid to leave behind troubles of opium, conflict, and poverty.

Survivors of Laos' PNPC dam disaster still struggling - RFA
What the people need most right now is a speedy return to their normal lives, before they were made to live in temporary housing with no income and no land suitable for agriculture.

MYANMAR

Thousands of protesters call for termination of dam project in Myanmar’s Kachin State - RFA
About 10,000 people in northern Myanmar’s Kachin state staged a massive protest Thursday against the controversial Chinese-backed Myitsone Dam and recent calls by China for the suspended project to resume.

The great sand heist - Frontier Myanmar
The mining of sand from Myanmar’s rivers could be creating an environmental crisis with potentially serious consequences for the 34 million people who live in the Ayeyarwady River basin. 

Parliament passes gemstone bill amid criticism  - Myanmar Times
The law does not specify how to tackle companies which bypass the size restrictions, for example, by applying small or medium-scale licences next to each other.

Surfers ride the wave of ocean action in Myanmar blue forest - UN Environment
Mangroves are disappearing in Myanmar four times faster than anywhere else in the world, so the first place to benefit from the SeaTrees project is the Thor Heyerdahl Climate Park in Myanmar, a country with almost 4,000 miles of coastline in the Indian Ocean.

Orchid defenders face mammoth task - Myanmar Times
With few nurseries, wild (illegally picked) orchids find their way to China, Vietnam and Thailand which are now in an orchid frenzy as their middle and upper classes are growing. 

Myanmar authorities confiscate smuggled teak timbers - MenaFN
The Forest Department confirmed that the six tons of rough-sawn teak timbers, belonging to Myanmar businessmen, were busted on Saturday by a joint force of police and forest 
departmental officials.

THAILAND

Govt urged to establish EPA, introduce clean-air legislation - The Nation
Thailand needs a specific law comparable to the Clean Air Act in Britain and the United States, as well as a central, independent agency directly focusing on keeping the environment clean, like the EPA in the US.

Govt’s new forest policy hailed as a breakthrough - The Nation
Maps guide way to end encroachment, leaving woodland dwellers in peace. (See also: Plea to allow community to use pristine forests rejected - The Nation)

Smog in Thailand set to ease, but summer brings water shortage fears - Straits Times
Water in many reservoirs in the northern, north-eastern and central regions has already nearly dried up, and the upper part of the country is expected to face a hotter and more arid summer. 
 

VIETNAM

How Vietnam’s high speed railway will get on track - Vietnam Express
Infographic video outlines how the proposed north-south high speed railway project is expected to be completed by 2045.

Hold-ups in green energy investment - VietnamNet
The growing demand for electricity and investment in Vietnam is catching the attention of renewable energy investors, however, existing procedures to resolve disputes seem to be giving investors trouble. 

Climate-smart agriculture key to the economic growth - Vietnam News
With the success of organic and high-tech agriculture models, it is expected that more and more people will engage in the occupation and get rich on their own land.

HCM City takes measures to protect the environment - Vietnam News
The goals are part of the city’s People’s Committee environment plan for the 2018–20 period with 10 goals involving solid waste reduction, wastewater treatment and climate change education. 

Vietnam takes action to reduce plastic waste - Vietnam News
A key priority is to review legal documents related to plastic waste’s risk management to complete a legal framework on Vietnam's ocean plastic waste combined with an environmentally-friendly ocean growth strategy.

Mekong Delta farmers profit from breeding crabs amid mangroves - Vietnam News
The pilot breeding shows that the mangrove crabs adapted to the forest environment and have a survival rate of more than 50 percent.
 

REGIONAL CONTEXT

Minilateralism in Southeast Asia - Khmer Times
The Mekong is the most dynamic region in terms of the number of minilateral mechanisms. 

The potential of floating solar power - The ASEAN Post
Thailand is the latest country in Southeast Asia to recognise the untapped potential of floating solar technology after the state-run Electricity Generating Authority of Thailand (EGAT) announced five pilot projects last month.

Smugglers turn to endangered Pangolin scales as China’s ivory ban bites - WildAid
The border between China and Vietnam has been identified as a known smuggling route for contraband, including illegal wildlife products, for several years.
The Mekong Eye's weekly News Digest curates news, commentary and resources on development, its environmental and social impacts, and the context affecting the Mekong region. We reach nearly 6000 key development professionals, government officials, business leaders and journalists. Submit stories, press releases, resources or feedback to: editor@mekongeye.com
 
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