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NEWS DIGEST #247

November 26, 2019

‘I can’t catch enough fish’: Can Myanmar balance water needs for fishers and farmers? - WLE-CGIAR
In Myanmar, rice is the main staple food and irrigation infrastructure has expanded to boost its production. But these systems continue to be designed and managed without considering the potential impacts on inland fisheries, which is harming river health and reducing fisheries production.
Drought continues to hit Mekong countries, risking stress on crop production, water shortage - MRC
In fact, the 2019 drought has brought the Mekong water levels to their lowest points in at least 60 years. Most parts of the basin have been experiencing an exceptionally low flow since June.   (See also: Cambodia, Laos, Thailand, Vietnam may face severe drought - Bangkok Post)
Hanoi police block access to concert with environmental theme - RFA
The concert, titled “Awake” and performed by pianist Pho An My, featured an environmental theme. A large crowd of security forces had gathered outside, just as if they were preparing to disperse a protest. Environmental activists were "roughed up,” and paintings about the environment were forbidden from display in the concert hall.
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MEKONG DEVELOPMENT

Officials to meet on Mekong crisis as fishing communities suffer - Aljazeera 
Mekong River Commission will meet in Phnom Penh as dams and drought take toll on the once-mighty waterway. On Cambodia's Tonle Sap, record low water levels have plunged fishing communities into crisis but with warnings of "severe drought", there are concerns the situation will get even worse.

Dams and climate change kill the Mekong - YaleGlobal
Excessive reliance on hydropower along with development and groundwater extraction destroys the Lower Mekong River delta, threatening livelihoods of millions.

Asia's twin curse: Dams and droughts (opinion) - Japan Times 
The Mekong, which is normally at least 3 meters high at this time of year, is today running at a record low level, with its flow reduced to a trickle in some stretches. The recent debut of the 1,285-megawatt Xayaburi Dam in Laos illustrates how autocracies steamroll protests and discount environmental concerns to complete projects. 

NASA space data can cut disaster response times, costs - Phys.org
The team used this tool to support disaster recovery after the 2018 failure of the Xepian-Xe Nam Noy hydropower dam in Laos.

Our work on "water insecurity" - SUMERNET
On its newly designed website, Dr Hoanh, Chair of SUMERNET, explains the research group's vision to reduce water insecurities in the Mekong Region, particularly for the poor, marginalized and socially vulnerable groups of women and men.

Impacts of cascade reservoirs on the longitudinal variability of fine sediment characteristics: A case study of the Lancang and Nu Rivers - Science Direct
Both grain size and mineral composition of fine particles of the sediment were altered by the cascade reservoirs, and the grain size changing degree showed a positive correlation with reservoir capacity.

Mekong countries gather in Vientiane - ANN/Vientiane Times
Representatives of Mekong countries promoted mutual understanding and shared experiences and best practices at the Lancang-Mekong Seminar on Community-Driven Development held in Vientiane on Friday.

CAMBODIA

Illegal logging persists in Cambodia’s Prey Lang Wildlife Sanctuary - Mongabay 
Cambodia’s Prey Lang forest was declared a wildlife sanctuary in 2016, but illegal land clearing within the protected area continues, a new report has found. (See also: Prey Veng officials crack down on four illegal timber businesses - Phnom Penh Post)

UNDP report: Rural communities key to future of Cambodia’s forests - Thymey Thymey
A solution to Cambodia’s climate change and economic development concerns lie in the country’s main natural resource: its forests, according to UNDP Human Development Report released this week. 

Improving access to basic drinking water, sanitation services and hygiene (policy brief) - World Vision
Less than 65 percent of the Cambodian households have access to an improved water source, and only 76 percent have access to improved sanitation. "This is among the worst levels of access to improved water in Asia."

First oil to be extracted next year, Hun Sen confirms - Khmer Times
Prime Minister Hun Sen said Cambodia is set to get its first drop of oil in 2020, confirming a previous statement by KrisEnergy, the company that will be extracting the crude.

Four provinces open for gold mine exploration - Khmer Times
The four areas include 49.25 kilometres in Stung Treng province’s Thalaborivath district and another 32 kilometres in the same district, 41.58 kilometres in Battambang province’s Phnom Proek district and 93.94 kilometres straddling between Kratie province’s Sambour district and Kampong Thom province’s Sandan district.

Environment Minister looks to curb land encroachment - Khmer Times
Environment Minister Say Samal has urged authorities in three provinces to prevent illegal land encroachment in the Samlot multi-purpose-use area and Phnom Samkos Wildlife Sanctuary as both areas are suffering from illegal occupations.

Japan grants US$190K for environment education - Phnom Penh Post
In this project, Nature Centre Risen will establish a continuous training system of environmental education from pre-school to lower secondary schools in Cambodia.

New dolphin calf spotted In Stung Treng - Cambodia News English
WWF-Cambodia On November 25th, another new dolphin was found in Stung Treng province. According to WWF-Cambodia, the calf was spotted on November 20, 2019 at around 8:30 am in Siem Pang District, Stung Treng Province.

Bird Festival and Nature Expo 2019 lifts value of biodiversity - Phnom Penh Post
While Cambodia is known for its rich biodiversity and natural resources, the Kingdom is also home to various critically endangered bird species such as the giant ibis, white-shouldered ibis, red-headed vulture, white-rumped vulture, slender-billed vulture, Bengal florican and so on.

LAOS

Despite efforts to stamp out corruption, Laos remains corrupt - RFA
“That’s why our government is getting poorer and poorer and our government workers getting wealthier and wealthier. That’s wrong; that’s illegal. Our country is going to go bankrupt soon,” says Saythong Keoduangdee, an MP from Vientiane.

MYANMAR

Potential environmental and social impacts of Chinese mega-projects in Myanmar raises concerns - Irrawaddy
Given that most of these projects haven’t yet begun, the concern may seem premature. However, Myanmar’s previous experience with Chinese projects would seem to justify such worries.

China seeks road, river route via Ayeyarwady for economic corridor - Myanmar Times
China is planning to build vital trade and logistics links with Myanmar along the Ayeyarwady River as part of the China-Myanmar Economic Corridor (CMEC) to bypass poor road infrastructure.

Speculative Yangon city mega-project draws ‘white elephant’ concerns for Myanmar - Channel News Asia
The New Yangon City project is an ambitious and controversial idea in its early conception days. The grand vision of Yangon’s regional government, which created the New Yangon City Development Company (NYDC) in March last year to partner with a Chinese state investment firm, is to build a brand new smart and “liveable” city with a population of 1.2 million people by 2050.

Opium poppy cultivation and sustainable development in Shan State, Myanmar 2019 - Reliefweb
New report by the UN Office on Drugs & Crime finds that one in nine households in Shan State were directly involved in opium poppy cultivation. They have lower levels of development than households in other villages. 

Groups reject Tigyit power plant’s EIA report, demand suspension - Myanmar Times
With serious air and water contamination already in the area, the EIA report by local consultants, appointed by the Chinese plant operator, "failed" to deliver a comprehensive assessment and suffers from procedural problems.

Myanmar protesters block Shan State minister during dam site visit - Irrawaddy 
Sai Shan Ta Lon, the Shan State minister for electricity and industry, and other members of the Shan government visited Tar Lon villagers. But protesters prevented them from reaching the village, which will be flooded by the dam.

Myanmar joins regional effort to save helmeted hornbill - Myanmar Times
The helmeted hornbill is one of the most unique species because of its solid casque, for which it has been hunted, illegally traded, and is in great demand as a material for carved jewellery and other ornaments.

THAILAND

Beyond the tipping point: The political inversion layer fueling Thailand’s air pollution crisis - Mekong Eye
There is no other way to put it, say leading academics, the government is ill-equipped to stop Thailand’s air pollution crisis from spiraling further out of control. The government's 'command-and-control' mentality only gives the appearance of a response, but little is actually done. (See also: Political indifference fuels air-pollution crisis - Bangkok Post; Thai air pollution crisis spiralling out of control - Thaiger; Public Health ministry gears up for seasonal PM2.5 air pollution - Nation Thailand)

Don’t poke the nest - SEA Globe
Activists from the Sa-iab Village in northern Thailand have successfully campaigned against the construction of a dam for three decades. With hydropower dams springing up across Asia, what can local communities learn from their struggle?

Hill farmers swap opium for coffee - Bangkok Post
If the project had not started, I would not be alive today," said Mr Somchai, 62, a member of the Lahu ethnic tribe, who now grows strawberries, cabbage and lettuce on an organic farm as part of the project. "We had nothing, and no hope. With the project, I got rid of my opium addiction, received citizenship, got land and work, and ensured that my children had better lives than me," he said.

Trade group CropLife Asia pushes pesticides ban delay over risk to agriculture - Bloomberg
A trade group representing pesticide firms urged Thailand’s Prime Minister Prayuth Chan-Ocha to delay a ban due Dec. 1 on three chemicals because of the potential disruption to the agriculture sector. (See also: Health minister says no further delay to Dec 1st ban on farm chemicals - Thai PBS; Farmers want help when chemical ban hits - Bangkok Post)

VIETNAM

Vietnam boats using child labour for illegal fishing - The Guardian
Crew testimony gathered by EJF suggests that depleted fish populations and uncontrolled fishing fleet expansion have led to vessels being forced to fish illegally.

HCM City, Mekong Delta face serious land subsidence - Vietnam+
Land subsidence in Ho Chi Minh City and the Mekong Delta has ranged from 0.1 to 81 centimetres in the last 10 years, according to the Water Resources Management Department at the Ministry of Natural Resources and Environment. (See also: Saigon, Mekong Delta areas have sunk nearly a meter - Vietnam Express)

Vietnam affirms no problems left in canceling nuclear power projects - VietnamNet
The government has prepared alternatives for the abandonment, including 6,000 MW from coal-fired power and LNG-to-power by 2030 as well as increasing electricity import from China, Laos, and Malaysia. (See also: Egat International builds coal-fired power plant in Vietnam - Bangkok Post'; Vietnam is seeing a rush to build LNG terminals in a move to displace coal - Interfax)

Vietnam sets up unit to manage Van Don economic zone after failed SEZ draft law - Hanoi Times
Under the master plan for socio-economic development of Van Don economic zone by 2030, the locality is expected to be transformed into a smart, modern and green coastal urban area, causing the area's population to grow to 140,000 from the current 52,000, and creating 89,000 jobs.

Gusty growth: Vietnam’s remarkable wind energy story - EcoBusiness
Vietnam is rising as Southeast Asia’s new wind hero, with power capacity soon to dwarf that of all other Asean nations and the world’s biggest offshore wind farm to be built off its windy coast, but challenges remain. (See also: Vietnam needs clear policies to promote renewable energy development: Int’l experts - Hanoi Times)

Banks required to assess environmental, social goals in Vietnam - VOA
The government is asking banks in Vietnam to look at environmental, social and governance risks, ESG, when considering credit risk. The State Bank of Vietnam says that every bank will create a unit for ESG analysis by 2025. ESG risk must be considered in all decisions.

Sustainable infrastructure investment speeds up growth in Vietnam - Vietnam+
Sustainable infrastructure investments are becoming the norm and enabling stable economic and social growth in Vietnam, Nirukt Sapru, CEO, Vietnam and ASEAN & South Asia Cluster Markets at Standard Chartered Bank, said at a recent conference in Ho Chi Minh City.

REGIONAL CONTEXT

Southeast Asia and the right to safe water - Third Pole
More than 100 million people live without access to safe water in Southeast Asia. What can be done to improve that and to protect clean water sources?

Will ASEAN ban single-use plastic? (opinion) - ASEAN Post
Despite the devastating impact that single-use plastic has on the environment, none of ASEAN’s 10 member countries are anywhere near joining the 80 other countries which have implemented complete nation-wide bans on it. (See also: WWF launches Plastic Smart Cities initiative in Southeast Asia - Inquirer) 

 

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