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NEWS DIGEST #254

January 27, 2020

HSBC exits Vinh Tan 3 coal power project in Vietnam - Eco-Business
HSBC was appointed financial advisor to the US$2 billion, 1,980-megawatt Vinh Tan 3 coal-fired power station in southeastern Vietnam in 2014, but the bank declared last week that it is not involved in the project. (See also: HSBC lags as finance cleans up on Asian energy - Asia Times; Environment Minister Koizumi breaks ranks on Japan's financing of Vietnam coal plant - Japan Times)
Cambodia rice crisis signals deeper economic rot - Asia Times
Cambodia’s beleaguered rice sector is both literally and figuratively drying up, with drought parching crops and commercial banks refusing liquidity to farmers and millers in need of loans to stay afloat. (See also: Farmers need new skills, technology and research to become international - Khmer Times)
Activists decry plastic ban loopholes - Bangkok Post
Increase in waste imports from China may mean no net decrease from the recent ban on single-use plastic bags at major retailers, which created a stir for consumers and businesses, with social media abuzz with workarounds such as shoppers using wheelbarrows.
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MEKONG DEVELOPMENT

Laos discusses sustainable green development with Mekong countries - ANN
Last week Laos hosted discussions with other Mekong countries on green and sustainable development initiatives and policies to enable the positive transformation of agricultural production.

China's dams isolate Asian elephants - Science
There are only about 200 elephants remaining in China, but China has exacerbated threats to their survival by neglecting the cascading effects of dam construction on the Mekong. 

CAMBODIA

The Sambor Dam: How China’s breach of customary international law will affect the future of the Mekong River - Georgetown Law
The LMC has provided China and Cambodia with the opportunity to bypass the obligations set forth in the Mekong Agreement and bilaterally construct the Sambor Dam in Cambodia. If completed, the Sambor Dam would devastate the Mekong River Basin and violate every principle of customary international water law.

Losing dolphins for more hydropower - Khmer Times
The construction of the Don Sahong hydropower dam in Laos has affected the habitats of Mekong River dolphins, causing their numbers to dwindle in Stung Treng province. The dwindling numbers are causing a decline in tourists who wish to see them, resulting in loss of income for villagers.

Diversification is critical for Cambodia’s economic growth - Khmer Times
Since the first law on investment in Cambodia was promulgated in 1994, Cambodia’s moves towards the diversification of the sources of growth and trade partners have produced only limited outcomes.

Cambodia ranks poorly in Global Corruption Perception Index - VOA
Cambodia continued to rank lowest compared to other Southeast Asian countries, according to a corruption index released by Transparency International on Thursday, ranking at 162 of 180 countries. “Many countries see economic openness as a way forward, however, governments across the region, from China to Cambodia to Vietnam, continue to restrict participation in public affairs, silence dissenting voices and keep decision-making out of public scrutiny,” the report said. (See also: Gov’t slams NGO over 2019 corruption report - Phnom Penh Post)

LAOS

No new thinking in Laos? (opinion) - The Diplomat
In recent years, the regime has looked to be stuck in static thinking. The government’s appalling responses to the numerous dam collapses over recent years make that obvious. It first feigned responsibility and accountability, then concocted lies, and then learned nothing by giving the all clear to other dams.

Govt gives stamp of approval to Hin Nam No national park - ANN
The park covers an area of 94,121 hectares, with funding to protect and develop the park to come from the government, Environment Protection Fund, National Tourism Fund and the Forest and Forest Resource Development Fund. Currently Laos is speeding up the preparation of documents to request the listing of Hin Nam No as a UNESCO World Heritage Site. 

Lao government allows tree felling near site of dam collapse - RFA
Authorities in Laos are allowing timber companies to fell trees in an area that was flooded after a dam collapse described as Laos’ worst flooding in decades, much to the ire of residents of the formerly flooded forests.

Activists protest Laos’ rights record at UN meeting in Geneva - RFA
One of the organizers called for the release of political prisoners, the release of information regarding the disappearance of activists and dissidents, respect for human rights and freedom of speech, freedoms of press and of association, a stop to government-backed land grabs, less Chinese and Vietnamese influence over the country, and an end to dam construction.

MYANMAR

Japan to provide over US$1 Billion in loans to Myanmar for development projects - The Irrawaddy
Myanmar and Japan have signed four loan agreements worth about US$1.1 billion (120.915 billion yen, or 1.61 trillion kyats) to fund sewerage, urban development, power distribution and infrastructure improvement projects in seven regions and states in Myanmar.

Is China-Myanmar Economic Corridor turning out to be another CPEC? - Wionews
China is trying to hard sell the idea that these projects will bring stability to Rakhine, but locals appear unconvinced after observing the fate of promised SEZ in Balochistan, which helped nobody except Chinese. People in Rakhine province remain sceptical about promised job creation, as well as, pending land settlement cases related to these projects.

Solar mini-grids to take off in Myanmar, support electrification ambitions - Myanmar Times
Solar mini-grids in Myanmar are expected to take off as the private sector sees solar energy as a potentially commercially viable solution in Myanmar’s journey towards full electrification. (See also: MoEE, HISEM sign second phase of National Electrification Project - Global New Light of Myanmar)

THAILAND

Government's competence in question (editorial) - Bangkok Post
Weather and water provide the most damning evidence of government ineptitude. Drought has stricken the northeast. Upstream dams in China and Laos, compounded by the lack of rainfall, have dried up the Mekong River in several Thai provinces downstream. Water levels in Thailand's major central region dams have receded alarmingly. Sea water also has seeped into the Chao Phraya River, from which much of our tap water is processed and distributed. The knock-on effects for agricultural production and overall well-being of people are portentous.

As govt flounders, locals band together to fight smog - Bangkok Post
As more and more people feel the adverse impact of PM2.5 dust particles, many complain the government has not done enough to solve the problem and are taking action to protect themselves and society. (See also: Thai protesters demand action as air pollution clouds Bangkok - Reuters;  School's out: Will haze order help? - Bangkok Post; Haze crisis a symptom of state of failures (opinion) - Bangkok Post; Bungling govt is losing the PM2.5 war - Bangkok Post)

Thai and Chinese consortium bag record floating solar-plus-hydro project - PV Tech
Thai regulator Electricity Generating Authority of Thailand (EGAT) has awarded a contract for a 45MW floating solar project on the Sirindhorn Dam to a consortium including local firm B.Grimm Power and Energy China.

VIETNAM

For Vietnamese minority communities, climate change isn’t coming; it’s here - ASEAN Today
Vietnamese minority communities, particularly minority women, are at the forefront of the climate crisis. They are developing their own coping strategies to deal with extreme weather.

Vietnam needs to choose the path less traveled - Vietnam News
Vietnam's industrial sector (not including construction) has never achieved a third of Vietnam’s GDP in history, and has failed to play the expected role of being an economic pivot. And the cost have been especially high environmentally, as seen in the worsening air, water and soil pollution, not to mention destruction of forests and other natural resources.

ADB agrees financing package for 50-MW solar project in Vietnam - Renewable News Now
The Asian Development Bank has inked a US$37.8-million deal to support the development and construction of a 50-MW solar photovoltaic park in Vietnam. (See also: New solar power prices not incentive enough: Finance Ministry - Vietnam Express; Vietnam Electricity to keep the current feed-in tariff for rooftop solar power until next year - Phnom Penh Post) 

Saltwater intrusion in Mekong Delta to ease by April - Vietnam News
The peak time for saline intrusion on the Mekong River may occur between January and March this year depending on the location. The prolonged lack of rain associated with the exploitation of water resources in the basin would make drought, water shortage and saltwater intrusion worse than in the historic 2015-2016 dry season.

PM agrees with plan for bio-diversity cooperation with Laos - Vietnam+
The Prime Minister has given a green light to the Ministry of Natural Resources and Environment to coordinate with other ministries, authorities and localities as well as the Lao side to hold a bilateral ministerial-level meeting on accelerating cooperation activities in preserving the bio-diversity and managing preservation areas along the bilateral border.

REGIONAL CONTEX

River deltas are changing shape - Cosmos
Deforestation and damming have altered the shape of river deltas across the globe, contributing to a net 54 square kilometres of land gained per year over the past three decades, according to a study published in the journal Nature. “Often times dam-building occurs without thinking too much about the consequences for downstream areas. Our findings can help tell people how much land loss would be expected for certain types of dams, for example," says  Jaap Nienhuis, from Utrecht University. 

Asia’s sinking cities need ‘Great Sea Walls’ to defend against rising waters, and fast - SCMP
Many parts of coastal Asia might be submerged by 2050 if nothing is done by governments, individually or collectively, to protect these areas. Singapore provides an excellent example of how to combat rising sea levels.

Promoting biodiversity-friendly trade in the Mekong region - UNTAD
More countries are now seeking to develop BioTrade value chains. BioTrade refers to the collection, production, transformation, and commercialization of goods and services derived from native biodiversity under the criteria of environmental, social and economic sustainability known as the BioTrade Principles and Criteria.

Drought, deluge, disease: How should the natural rubber industry respond to climate change? - Eco-Business
Rising temperatures, drought and heavy rain will affect rubber yields and disease outbreaks. Rubber growers can boost resilience by adopting better cultivation methods, but will need more support.

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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