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NEWS DIGEST #236

September 3, 2019

New elevation measure shows climate change could quickly swamp the Mekong Delta - Scientific American
A stunning 12 million people could be displaced by flooding in Vietnam’s Mekong Delta within half a century, according to new research analyzing ground-based measurements of the Mekong’s topography that the Vietnamese government shielded from Western scientists for years. The results were published last week in Nature

In the rice-rich Mekong region, will husk briquettes take hold? - Mongabay
The Mekong region is projected to lose another third of its forest cover by 2030 at current rates of deforestation. Briquettes from rice husks or other plant waste present a cleaner alternative to wood and charcoal in a region that collectively produces nearly 100 million tons of rice per year.
Thailand aims to be Southeast Asia’s power-trading middleman - Bangkok Post
Thailand is jump starting a decades-old plan to create a Southeast Asia electricity super-grid, and wants to be the power-trading hub at the centre of it. (See also: AMEM a chance to promote multilateral energy trading - Bangkok Post)
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MEKONG DEVELOPMENT

Something is very wrong on the Mekong River - The Diplomat
This year’s drought is just a preview of more dire problems to come if governments don’t change course. (See also: A conversation on the Mekong and a changing Southeast Asia - The Diplomat)

China’s hegemonic choice in the Mekong region - East Asia Forum
Put bluntly, the Mekong River region represents a crucial testing ground for Beijing’s mid- to long-term ambitions — not acknowledged officially — to become the hegemon in East Asia and possibly beyond. (See also: Mekong nears tipping point as US-China rivalry grows - Nikkei Asian review)

CAMBODIA

Coal plant deemed too polluting for China, heads to Cambodia - China Dialogue
As it cleans up at home, China is exporting coal power equipment and carbon emissions. (See also: Heavy carbon emitters in China’s belt and road network may put Paris climate targets at risk - SCMP)

Government unveils plans for city in Bokor National Park - Khmer Times
According to the master plan – officially known as ‘Master Plan for Bokor City Development Project until 2035’ – the new city will occupy about five percent of land in Bokor National Park, about 9,000 hectares. (See also: New ‘Bokor City’ planned for high-end tourist destination
 - Phnom Penh Post)


A rare acquittal in a climate of danger for green activists - Eurasia Review
Alejandro-Gonzalez Davidson, the founder of the NGO Mother Nature Cambodia (MNC), stood accused of acting as an accomplice to three Cambodian activists who were arrested for protesting sand-dredging in the coastal province of Koh Kong. 

NGOs to be grilled over MFI report - Khmer Times
The demand follows a report, Collateral Damage: Land Losses and Abuses in Cambodia’s Microfinance Sector, by Licadho and Sahmakum Teang Tnaut on August 7 that stated more than two million Cambodians held a total of US$8 billion in outstanding microloans, about one-third of the Kingdom’s gross domestic product.

LAOS

Wife, rights organizations remember missing Lao activist on International Day of the Disappeared - RFA
Though Lao authorities have denied any responsibility, Sombath Somphone’s abduction is widely acknowledged to be an enforced disappearance—the arrest or detention of an individual by state officials.

Lao migrants fleeing poverty defy dangers to work in Thailand - RFA
Lao workers, many of them young and some still in their teens, have poured in growing numbers this year into neighboring Thailand, braving exploitation and unsafe work conditions in search of employment to help support families back home, sources in the Southeast Asian nation say.

Why agriculture investment in Lao is lacking - ASEAN Post
While the Lao government recently called for increased investment in agriculture to boost its export market, there are several issues that have to be tackled before foreign investors come knocking. (See also - More investment needed for Laos to reap profits from agriculture - ANN)

Gold mining operation kicks off in Xaysomboun - ANN
As part of the gold mining development project, the company will seek permission to establish the Lao People’s Bank to provide loans to local people and farmers in the project area. This will enable them to grow crops, including fruit, and to rear livestock for sale to the company.

MYANMAR

New freshwater species discovered in Myanmar - Myanmar Times
A team of international and local scientists have announced the discovery of previously unknown species of freshwater mussels in Myanmar. (See also: New mussel discoveries in Myanmar spark calls for protection - phys.org)

Villagers hold blessing ceremony to stop dams - Myanmar Times
Residents of Ta Long and nearby villages in Thibaw township, Shan State, held a blessing ceremony to oppose the building of dams on the Namtu River, also known as the Myitnge River, last week.

Military now controls Myanmar’s scientifically important amber mines - New Scientist
An internationally important amber deposit in northern Myanmar has been taken over by the country’s military and is being looted to line the pockets of the generals, a report from a local non-governmental organisation confirms.

Yangon puts 'girl power' into green spaces - Nikkei Asian Review
Hidden behind trees near a busy road in Yangon is a novel answer to two global hot-button issues: suffocating urbanization and sexual harassment.

THAILAND

Rising sea levels leave Bangkok seeking ways to keep water at bay - Financial Times
The city is at forefront of global efforts to incorporate climate change into planning. (See also: Bangkok must remain capital - Bangkok Post)

Safari zone plan meets strong opposition - Bangkok Post
The Royal Forest Department (RFD), along with numerous environmental activists have expressed their opposition to a plan to turn 30,000 rai of forest adjacent to Huai Kha Khaeng Wildlife Sanctuary into a safari zone.

Forest row begs solution (Opinion) - Bangkok Post
The Bo Kaew case -- which is only one among a total of 10 forest conflicts between state agencies and land activists under the P-Move network -- demonstrates clearly the double standards of a government that routinely favours the forestry industry at the expense of small farmers.

Speeding up plans to cut ocean waste - Inquirer
Thailand is stepping up efforts to curb ocean plastic waste and conserve endangered marine life, through a comprehensive program named after well-loved baby dugong Mariam, who died after consuming plastic.

Government urged to issue an executive decree to ban paraquat - Thai PBS
A member of the Democrat Party’s policy committee has challenged the government to issue an executive decree to ban the use of the weed killer paraquat immediately.

When the rain doesn’t come: Thailand in grip of severe drought as monsoon season fails to deliver - CNA
So far this year, the entire country has endured the least rainfall in the past decade and a significant 25 percent less than in the same time in 2018, according to Thailand’s Department of Water Resources.

Police seize 9,900 kilograms of ivory in past 6 years - Pattaya Mail
The National Ivory Action Plan has announced the outcome of its operations over the past six years, during which 9,900 kilograms of ivory worth 990 million baht were seized, leading to the removal of Thailand from CITES’ list of countries of key concern in ivory trade.

VIETNAM

Something is stinking in Vietnam’s heritage sites - The Hindu
In July, experts discussed environmental pollution in Ha Long at the Quang Ninh People’s Council. Poorly enforced waste management norms and unsustainable practices in the tourism sector were among the major concerns. 

Raising agricultural productivity in Vietnam isn’t rocket science - East Asia Forum
Productive land is being lost to salinity intrusion and coastal erosion. Dry-season surface water is scarce. Output gains from crop and livestock/aquaculture improvements are difficult to sustain due, in part, to climate change-induced pest and disease pressures.

Vietnam to have 2,000MW of rooftop solar power capacity in 2020 - Vietnam+
Vietnam Electricity (EVN) said more than 4,000 households have installed rooftop solar power systems over the past three months with a total capacity of 200MW. It estimated that an additional 300MW of rooftop solar power will be added by the end of 2019, helping to ensure the nation's power security. (See also: PV panels offer hope for Vietnam's shrimp and pangasius producers - The Fish Site)

WWF's water stewardship transforming textile sector - Fiber 2 Fashion
The project’s vision is to transform the textile sector in Vietnam to bring social, economic and conservation benefits to the country and the entire Mekong region.

Women-led businesses on the rise in Vietnam - ASEAN Post
A recent Grant Thornton’s report titled ‘Women in Business 2019,’ revealed that women hold 36 percent of senior management positions in Vietnamese businesses, ranking second highest in the region after the Philippines’ 37.5 percent.

Vietnam boosts fight against illegal timber products - Vietnam News
Illegally harvested timber, as well as traders of this item, will not be able to enter the supply chain under new rules to comply with the Voluntary Partnership Agreement on Forest Law Enforcement, Governance and Trade (VPA/FLEGT).

REGIONAL CONTEXT

The death of Southeast Asia’s dugongs - ASEAN Post
The two dugong deaths in Thailand recently were not the only ones recorded. Seven of these docile mammals were also found dead on Thai beaches, in the last two to three months. In Malaysia, losses of seagrass bed is reported as the most important factor of dwindling dugong population. (See also: The 10th dead dugong of this year found on Koh Libong - Thai PBS; Saving the dugong - Bangkok Post)

Proforestation: A better climate action than tree plantation - The Daily Star
For instance, Vietnam is allowing 14.6 million ha to return to natural forest, which is the world’s most substantial commitment of this nature.

Indigenous people need a say on water rights, U.N. rapporteur urges - Reuters
Indigenous knowledge, which could be key in making smart decisions about water, is being left out, an indigenous expert warns.

Asia-Pacific Climate Week kicks off in Bangkok - China Dialogue
Participants at this week’s Asia-Pacific Climate Week (APCW), which runs from 2-6 September in Bangkok, are hoping it will build momentum on climate action ahead of the New York climate summit later this month and the UN climate talks in Chile in December. (See also: Heavy carbon emitters in China’s belt and road network may put Paris climate targets at risk - SCMP)

 

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