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NEWS DIGEST #277

August 10, 2020

Mekong countries urged to address low water flows - MRC
“We call on the six Mekong countries to increase data and information sharing on their dam and water infrastructure operations in a transparent and speedy manner with the MRC. It is time to walk the talk and to act in the common interest of the entire Mekong River Basin and the affected communities,” says Dr An Pich Hatda, the MRC Secretariat’s Chief Executive Officer. (See also: Mekong nations pressed to share data as water level falls to new low - Reuters)
Mekong Delta farmers lose durian farms to historic drought and salinity - Vietnam Express
This time last year durian trees were blossoming in time for harvesting in January. Orchards now look like they were abandoned a long time ago. Trees are dead and have turned blackish while their leaves have withered.
Conservationists say Ayeyarwady dolphin in danger of extinction - Myanmar Times
Ayeyarwady dolphins may go extinct if the authorities are unable to stop illegal electrofishing in the Ayeyarwady River. (See also: Electrofishing thrives despite crackdown in Mandalay - Myanmar Times)
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MEKONG DEVELOPMENT

Solar power can help halt dramatic decline of migratory fish - Forbes
Despite that dizzying diversity and complexity of Mekong fish habitat, and despite nearly no examples of existing projects that have solved these challenges, fish passage structures are being offered as solutions to mitigate impacts on migratory fish from dams including Xayaboury on the Mekong River in Laos, which began operation last year and is the first of 11 proposed dams on the lower Mekong.   

Agencies told to find ways to mitigate dam impact - Bangkok Post
Thailand is concerned about the potential environmental impacts from the planned Sanakham Dam project in Laos to be located two kilometres from its border. 

CAMBODIA

Officials say land dispute with Thai firms long resolved, landless families told to submit applications - Phnom Penh Post
Oddar Meanchey provincial authorities remain puzzled about the Thai Appeal Court’s recent ruling in favour of more than 700 families who claimed to have been locked in a land dispute with three Thai-owned sugar companies in Samrong town and Chongkal district.

One land disputant detained, 20 released in Tbong Khmum - VOD
About 500 police officers, military police and district authorities descended on the villagers armed with electric batons and handcuffs to protect the Chinese company’s machinery, which was being used to block community members from disputed areas. (See also: Police to release 20 in Tbong Khmum land dispute - Phnom Penh Post)

Severe drought takes toll on 40,000ha rice crops across country - Phnom Penh Post
Drought has destroyed over 40,000ha of rice crops in Battambang, Banteay Meanchey and other provinces while water sources across the country continued to dry up, further threatening the country's agricultural sector.

Waste-to-energy plan okayed - Phnom Penh Post
The Seoul-headquartered treaty-based international organisation Global Green Growth Institute has given the green light for the Cambodian government to submit a budget request for a waste-to-energy project at Phnom Penh’s Dangkor landfill. 

Clock ticking to save endangered clouded leopard - Phnom Penh Post
The Wildlife Conservation Society and the Ministry of Environment are requesting help to save the endangered clouded leopard and its habitat from extinction.

Firm granted land for Koh Kong coal plant - Phnom Penh Post
The government is donating 168ha in Botum Sakor National Park in Koh Kong to the Royal Group to build a 700MW coal-fired power plant.

Extreme drought intensifying in Northeast Cambodia while storms lash other areas - Khmer Times
The extreme drought around the Sekong, Sesan and Srepok rivers in northeast Cambodia is forecast to intensify this week, the Mekong River Commission (MRC) says.

LAOS

Lao farm worker beaten, tied up, in dispute at Chinese banana plantation - RFA
A relative of the victim said, “Suddenly, he was beaten up by five Lao and Chinese men, then taken to the office where he was held at knife point and asked by the Chinese boss: ‘Do you want to die?’” 

Regional project’s new financing benefits Lao agroecology, safe food system - Vientiane Times
Laos is set to benefit from €12 million in funding for a regional project to support the transition of food and agricultural production towards more sustainable systems in Southeast Asia. Agence Française de Développement is supporting the ASSET project with a €5 million grant and the EU will also finance the project with €7 million.

BRI as a tool of oppression - UNPO
One such example can been seen in the Saysombun Special Zone in Central Laos, where the Laotian military is supporting gold mining companies from the PRC to surround, hunt and clear indigenous Chaofa Hmong communities.

MYANMAR

 

‘I feel guilty for surviving’: The deadly hunt for jade in Myanmar - BBC
Deadly landslides occur almost every year during the rainy season at the vast mines in Kachin state. The mines produce about 70 percent of the world's jade - a gem coveted by the Chinese and a trade worth billions of dollars annually.

Myanmar continues pushback against BRI: Chinese Eco Development Zone faces turbulence - Economic Times
After the Yangon mega city project where Beijing’s role has been minimised, China funded the Myitkyina Economic Development Zone in Kachin state, but here too the project has run into rough times following reservations from both government and local residents in recent weeks. 

Chinese companies dominate bidding for Myanmar’s billion-dollar solar tender - Frontier Myanmar
Private Chinese firm Sungrow was the largest bidder, submitting bids for 24 of the 30 sites, while state-owned companies China Machinery Engineering Corporation and Datang Power each submitted more than 10 bids. None of these companies could be reached for comment.

Plans for wind power from Chinese firm fall apart in Myanmar - China Dialogue
It is the second disappointment for locals. A hybrid mini-grid system combining solar panels, a wind turbine and diesel generator was installed in 2003 but it has not functioned properly since 2006.

THAILAND

Farmers call on Thai government to overturn ban on pesticide use - Thaiger
In a letter the farmers suggest the Hazardous Substances Committee impose restrictions on use of the products instead, while educating farmers on how to use them safely.

Conservation activists urge post-pandemic tourism reset in Thailand - Nikkei Asian Review
Since tourism dried up, reports of encounters with wild or rare animals have been frequent. Elephants have emerged from the jungle, while sharks, otters and herds of dugong -- not seen locally for decades -- have made bold appearances on the seashore. Rare leatherback turtles have laid eggs for the first time in years on several beaches on Koh Samui. 

"We have upset the balance of nature" Thai environment minister warns - CNA
He acknowledged that improvements in air quality and drops in PM2.5 - tiny particulate matter caused by cars and industry - experienced during recent months were unlikely to be long-lived.

VIETNAM

Mekong delta province faces increasing river erosion - Vietnam News
In Dong Thap, 6,400 households living in erosion-prone areas need to be relocated to safe areas. The province is building more residential areas and residential clusters to relocate households in erosion-prone areas.

Vietnam approves US$9 billion development within mangrove reserve - Mongabay
The Can Gio Tourist City was recently approved for construction within the buffer zone of a UNESCO Mangrove Biosphere Reserve in Ho Chi Minh City. Developed by Vingroup, Vietnam’s largest private company, the project will require the reclamation of a huge amount of land along Can Gio’s coast. The company's power and influence is reportedly silencing criticism. (See also: Can Gio Biosphere: the 'green lung' that protects HCM City - Vietnam News)

Coffee shoes help entrepreneurs tread new ground - Vietnam News
The idea is to help reduce the carbon footprint, as the fashion industry is one of the most polluted businesses in the world. Their method sees old coffee mixed with recycled polyester from used water bottles to create the main material of the shoes which is coffee polyester yarn.

Vietnam raises emission reduction target to combat climate change - Vietnam Express
Vietnam will decrease its greenhouse gas emissions by 9 percent by 2030, 1 percentage point higher than the previous target set in 2015.

Analysis: Vietnam’s leadership flex shows how to drive electricity reform - Mongabay
Vietnam’s Communist Party leadership has instituted a top-down reform of the country’s electricity sector in response to the need to shift away from coal and its growing list of associated problems. (See also: Vietnam prepares to rein in coal-power growth - Argus; Nearly 20,000 rooftop solar power projects installed - Vietnam+)

Planted forests in Vietnam enhance ecosystem goods and services - Forests News
Some two thirds of these planted forests, mainly consisting of Acacia and Eucalyptus trees, are managed by smallholders. These efforts are primarily designed to meet demand for industrial-use timber.

Tien Giang enjoys fruitful agricultural restructuring - Vietnam+
The Mekong Delta province of Tien Giang has been promoting agricultural restructuring towards expansion in both area and production of vegetable farming.

REGIONAL CONTEXT

Covid-induced energy plunge shrinks coal development in Southeast Asia - Eco-Business
Only one gigawatt (GW) of coal power was newly proposed and 0.8GW started construction in the first half of 2020. This is 70 percent lower than the average 2.9GW of new proposals. Previously, since 2015 the region had been experiencing some 2.7GW of new construction every six months.

New research links Asia's air pollution with heavy economic impacts, thousands of premature deaths - CNA
According to a new tool that tracks the impacts of degraded air quality in real time, air pollution has contributed to a combined estimated 153,600 premature deaths and US$82.4 billion in economic loss up to Jun 30th this year in just 11 major Asian cities. (See also: ASEAN works to respond to transboundary haze pollution - Vietnam+)

Plastic pollution plagues Southeast Asia amid Covid-19 lockdowns - SCMP
Malaysia, Thailand, the Philippines and Indonesia have seen a surge in plastic waste as environmental awareness takes a back seat to health concerns. There has been a heavy reliance on food-delivery services and online shopping amid the pandemic, while recycling has dropped off.

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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