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NEWS DIGEST #266

May 18, 2020

Laos moves forward on plans to build seventh large-scale Mekong River dam - RFA
Residents of Laos and Thailand, as well as international experts and environmentalists, say the project is unnecessary and would add to pressure on the Mekong region, already struggling to cope with the impact of multiple Chinese dams. The Sanakham Dam project will be developed by Datang Sanakham Hydropower company, a subsidiary of China’s Datang International Power Generation Co. Ltd. and would join the currently operational Xayaburi and Don Sahong dams along with those in various stages of planning: Pak Beng, Pak Lay, Luang Prabang, and Phougnoi. (See also: Laos pushes ahead with sixth Mekong River dam project - Reuters; Laos to undertake prior consultation for Sanakham hydropower project - MRC; Northeast residents oppose 6th Laos dam project - Bangkok Post)
Extreme flood risk: New report outlines potentially disastrous scenario for Ho Chi Minh City - CNA
The risk of extreme future flooding events in the Vietnamese metropolis Ho Chi Minh City could increase by up to 10 times by 2050, resulting in immense economic and infrastructural damage, according to a new McKinsey report: Can coastal cities turn the tide on rising flood risk?
Video: Camera traps show what lies within Myanmar's lowland forests - phys.org
Tanintharyi's lowland forests represent Myanmar's last remaining habitat for tigers and other rare species, including the only known viable population of the critically endangered Gurney's pitta. In fact, surveys of the southern Tanintharyi region recorded 166 species that are considered threatened on the IUCN Red List.
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CAMBODIA

‘They never intended to conserve it’: Outcry as loggers gut Cambodian reserve - Mongabay
“In Cambodia’s forests, the criminals wear the uniform,” said Marcus Hardtke, a conservationist with more than 20 years of experience in Cambodia. Hardtke said illegal logging is almost always linked to the military, police force, or the Ministry of Environment itself.

Cambodian firm accused of creating a ‘monopoly in the timber business’ - Mongabay
A surge in deforestation alerts from Cambodia’s Prey Lang Wildlife Sanctuary has raised concerns over the role of a controversial, politically-connected timber firm in illegal logging. While investigators say they have amassed evidence of widespread illegalities in Think Biotech’s operations in the sanctuary, its director told Mongabay the company was the victim of loggers using its concession as a thoroughfare between the sanctuary and export destinations.

First-ever action plan to save Asian elephants - Khmer Times
The Environment Ministry in cooperation with Fauna & Flora International has adopted Cambodia’s first-ever action plan to save the Asian elephant from extinction.

Mekong region under threat, report claims - Phnom Penh Post
The report by the Regional Community Forestry Training Centre (RECOFTC) said villagers living around Srepok Wildlife Sanctuary had recently reported illegal loggers in the forest and they took action by seizing some of the perpetrators’ chainsaws. “When large companies are involved, the imbalance of power can be stark," the report adds. "And in Cambodia and other Mekong countries, it is not easy for communities to complain because grievance mechanisms are absent, unclear or ineffective. Meanwhile, land and forest defenders often face threats and violence.”

Transforming waste into compost - Khmer Times
With humble start, a  private joint venture entity between Cambodia and Singapore is gradually expanding its activity to transform Phnom Penh’s garbage into organic fertilizer, as waste management remains a concern particularly for the capital.

Water shortage being felt in several part of the country - Thmey Thmey
Earlier this month, the Ministry of Water Resources and Meteorology warned that the country might soon experience an intense heat wave, which could bring temperature to 41 Celsius in the northwestern parts of the country. 

LAOS

Lao villagers sickened by chemical run-off from Chinese banana farms - RFA
Chemical waste from Chinese-owned banana farms is polluting a river in Bokeo province in northern Laos, leaving local villagers who bathe in the stream with severe rashes and other skin disorders.

China’s Belt and Road keeps steaming ahead in Laos - Asia Times
Under fire for bullying neighbors in the South China Sea, China is patting itself on the back for the progress it is making on the 411-kilometer China-Laos railway through a sparsely populated nation that has barely been touched by the Covid-19 pandemic.   

Five miners killed at blast at Chinese coal mine in Laos - RFA
Five miners were killed and another left seriously injured in an explosion May 10 at a Chinese coal mine in the Ta Oy district of Saravane province in southern Laos.

Nearly US$37 billion invested in Laos - Phnom Penh Post
The Lao government has approved more than 6,000 investment projects with combined funding of nearly US$37 billion since the introduction of the market-oriented economy in the 1980s.

MYANMAR

Slow grid rollout shows why Myanmar should join the personal energy revolution (opinion) - Frontier Myanmar
Where demand density is low, such as villages and rural towns, it should prioritise personal energy. More people will receive electricity faster and the risk of premature grid extension without sufficient supply can be mitigated.

New mining permits to be be approved soon: ministry - Myanmar Times
The move comes after the suspension of new mining permits in July 2016. The government began accepting applications after enacting the 2018 Myanmar Mining Rules to better regulate the industry. Under the new regulations, large blocks will cover up to 500,000 acres (about 202,000 hectares). Foreign firms can invest in large blocks while local firms can work in all kinds of blocks.  

Naga tribes of Myanmar face loss of land and forest under new law - Mongabay
Tribal members say the changes to the law contradict the spirit of the peace process, which is to allow ethnic minorities greater autonomy than under the previous military dictatorship.

Wild elephant poached in Myanmar's largest national park - The Irrawaddy
This is the first time an elephant has been poached in the area in two decades, according to U Tun Tun Win, a lawmaker from Kani Township, which is part of the sanctuary. The elephant was disemboweled with its tusks cut off in Alaungdaw Kathapa National Park in Sagaing Region.

THAILAND

What to do about forest fires? - Bangkok Post
As northern forest fires rage through the region, a tiny Karen farming community in Mae Moh, Lampang province, has managed to use its local wisdom and traditional knowledge of forest management to keep forest fires at bay for years. Somchat Ruksongplu, village headman of Moo Ban Klang, a scenic mountainous community of 65 families, credits his forefathers for leaving them with knowledge to control fires and manage forests, so they can live in harmony within their natural environment.

Nature wins in virus crisis (editorial) - Bangkok Post
It is good to hear from Natural Resources and Environment Minister Varavuth Silpa-archa that his ministry is considering closing the country's 157 national parks for three months each year to allow the ecology and environment to improve. (See also:  Wildlife flourishes in pandemic, national parks to stay closed - Khaosod English)

Phi Phi’s world famous Maya Bay won’t reopen until fully rehabilitated - Thaiger
On the land, many plants, even Morning Glory never seen on Maya Bay before, are growing well. But under the sea, corals are still in a dangerous condition. Many coral species grow at a rate of only 3-5 centimetres in a year, while some species grow only 1-2 centimetres.

Death of the beach? Conflict over Songkhla seawall construction - Prachatai
Apisak Tassanee, from the beach conservation group ‘Beach for Life’, said that the seawall project began in 2013. Three public hearings, which many alleged were not inclusive, took place. The seawall project consists of 2 phases: 710 metres and 1,995 metres. He claims that seawall construction is widely recognized as the ‘death of the beach’.

SEZ plan ignores local ideas of development (opinion) - Bangkok Post
Last week Kaireeya Ramanya, a young girl from a sleepy fishing village in Songkhla's Chana district, wrote a letter to Thailand's Prime Minister. This is a task that the 17-year-old -- who staged a sit-in protest against a mega-development project known as the Southern Economic Zone (SEZ) -- had never dreamed of doing.

VIETNAM

Vietnamese police clash with 100 Khmer Krom farmers in latest land dispute - RFA
Vietnamese police traded blows with about 100 farmers from the ethnic Khmer Krom minority in the southern Mekong Delta region last week, the latest violent clash over land rights in the Southeast Asian country.

Joint efforts needed to protect water resources: Vietnam River Network - Vietnam News
Vietnam News Agency speaks to Đào Trọng Tứ, head co-ordinator of the Vietnam River Network (VRN), on the role of social organisations and civic groups in improving the awareness and actions of the community regarding water security issues.

Why Vietnam embraces multilateralism at this uncertain time - The Interpreter
On environmental themes, the water security of the Mekong is a multinational issues, involving China as the upstream country and five other lower countries, namely Myanmar, Laos, Cambodia, Thailand, and Vietnam. This demands an integrated and collaborative approach to resolve challenges, such as equitable and sustainable use of the water resources to support the long-term health of the river and the 70 million people that depend on it.

REGIONAL CONTEX

Land conflicts flare across Asia during coronavirus lockdowns - Jakarta Post
With police and security forces engaged in enforcing lockdowns, cases of illegal logging have been reported in Nepal, Myanmar, Cambodia and Indonesia.

Healthy oceans needed to keep ASEAN afloat (opinion) - ASEAN Post
Sadly, escalating strains on the marine environment are threatening to drown progress and our way of life. In less than a century, climate change and unsustainable resource management have degraded ecosystems and diminished biodiversity. Levels of overfishing have exponentially increased, leaving fish stocks and food systems vulnerable. Marine plastic pollution coursing through the region’s rivers have contributed to most of the debris flooding the ocean.


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 more than 5,000 key development professionals, government officials, business leaders and journalists. Submit stories, press releases, resources or feedback to: editor@mekongeye.com
 
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