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NEWS DIGEST #259

March 23, 2020

Cambodian official: No new dams planned for Mekong mainstream Before 2030 - VOA
Villagers and fishing communities along the Mekong River have long been in the dark over whether proposed dams, including the massive 2,600 megawatt Sambor Dam in Kratie province, would proceed as planned and compound challenges already faced by communities and tens of thousands of Cambodians along the river. (See also: Cambodia scraps plans for Mekong hydropower dams - The Guardian; Statement on Cambodian government’s decision to suspend hydropower dam development on the Mekong River - WWF)
For a sustainable peace, let’s imagine an ecological peace - Myanmar Times
Around two-thirds of Myanmar's remaining forests are in ethnic areas, and in most of these areas there are strong grievances over past and even ongoing abuses. Placing ecological issue at the heart of the peace process could perhaps revitalize the efforts of mediation and dialogue between communities that have faced each other for more than 70 years.
Dams in the upper Mekong River modify nutrient bioavailability downstream - phys.org
Fishery declines in the lower Mekong River might be caused by factors other than upstream dams, as contrary to expectations, researchers found that a cascade of reservoirs along the upper Mekong River increased downstream bioavailability of nitrogen and phosphorus.
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MEKONG DEVELOPMENT

China’s ‘development approach’ to the Mekong water disputes - The Diplomat
While it is still too early to tell how China’s development approach will eventually affect water governance in the Mekong river basin, theoretical and empirical evidence tends to suggest that it presents both opportunities and risks.

Thai activists protest new Xayaburi Dam on the Mekong - VoA
In addition to the evidence of environmental damage caused by the dam, the plaintiffs also request that the court issue an injunction to suspend the power purchase agreement until new information can be checked regarding the dam’s impact on the river’s ecosystem.

Campaign launched to celebrate 25th Anniversary of MRC, inspire river protection - MRC
To join this campaign, Facebook users are required to post their photo of the Mekong River, along with their wish about the River they want to see in 2030. The post and wish can be written in any language, but must be made in a public mode, with two hashtags: #MRC25 #MekongRiverCommission. 

CAMBODIA

Landmark settlement in Cambodian land-grab falls short for many villagers - VoA
Ten years after losing their land and homes, the affected villagers said that although they won the fight for compensation, it is unlikely to reverse the effects the land grab has had on their families.

Cambodia’s rice bowl remains half full - Phnom Penh Post
Every year, the drought is said to be longer than the previous year although rainfall is projected to rise in wet seasons. Most times the outcome is different.

Smaller fragments of forest at risk of greater levels of deforestation, study finds - MongaBay
In Cambodia, the report said, “large areas within wildlife sanctuaries, conservation areas, and national parks have been replaced with commercial rubber plantations in recent years.” 

Environmental activists harassed - Human Rights Watch
Cambodian authorities should end the politically motivated investigations of four environmental activists looking into illegal logging in Kratie province, Human Rights Watch said today, the International Day of Forests. The authorities should investigate a Taiwanese-Cambodian company whose employees allegedly detained the activists, including the prominent environmentalist Ouch Leng, and assaulted one of them.

New dolphin calf spotted in Kratie province - Khmer Times
About 92 adult Irrawaddy Dolphins or Mekong Dolphin inhabit the Mekong mainstream. 

Wildlife Alliance and rangers seize wild meat, snares - Phnom Penh Post
Thanks to support from Wildlife Alliance, forest rangers who have been patrolling Pursat province’s Rovieng area have seized wildlife meat and illegal hunting, trapping and snaring equipment.

Why smart systems need local heroes - Khmer Times
Building resilient climate infrastructure does require high-tech equipment, satellite links and real time transmission of data. But, like any good piece of development work, it also needs to connect with and receive the expertise and care of community leaders and local heroes. 

NGO celebrates local wildlife - Phnom Penh Post
Despite the call for social distancing and to halt large gatherings in light of the deadly Covid-19 disease that has infected 47 people in Cambodia, more than 650 youth, women, and men gathered at the Phnom Tamao Wildlife Rescue Centre to celebrate World Wildlife Day and International Women’s Day.

LAOS

Cooperating to save Laos’ Plain of Jars - The Diplomat
With disaster management efforts just now underway, the Plain of Jars is an important example of safeguarding World Heritage.

Lao police arrest two for video of land dispute protest - RFA
Authorities in Laos’ Vientiane province have arrested two people for sharing on social media a video that documented an argument with police over a land dispute in their village.

MYANMAR

Yangon water supply upgrade may bypass the poorest - Frontier Myanmar
The Myanmar and Japanese governments are working together to deliver clean, drinkable water to millions of Yangon residents and end groundwater use, but the city’s poorest households may miss out on the benefits.

Myanmar at risk from extreme climate - ASEAN Post
According to the Global Climate Risk Index 2020, Myanmar has had the highest weather-related losses in the past two decades, alongside Puerto Rico and Haiti. It is said that Myanmar is also one of the most vulnerable countries at risk of climate crisis. 

Myanmar releases endangered turtles into Chindwin River - Myanmar Times
Conservationists assumed that the Burmese roofed turtle would become extinct, but efforts by conservationists and experts to conserve them since 2002 have met with some success.

Tackling Myanmar’s climate crisis with solar - ASEAN Post
Myanmar’s energy needs are largely met with hydropower, but its environmental, geopolitical and social costs are now growing concerns for the country. Solar energy is said to be one of the most eco-friendly energy generation sources. 

Myanmar launches aquaculture roadmap - Myanmar Times
As Myanmar’s aquaculture sector is reducing its reliance on capture fishery, the National Aquaculture Development Plan will highlight the list of actionable priorities to address the needs and utilise the tangible benefits of the sector.

Tracing the more than century-old dream of building a Myanmar-China Railway - Irrawaddy
As part of the 33 deals, protocols and exchanges agreed to between China and Myanmar in January, Xi handed over a feasibility study for a high-speed railway connecting Kyaukphyu port in Rakhine State with Yunnan in southwest China.

THAILAND

Deals and dams on the Salween: How China, Thailand and Myanmar shut local communities out - ASEAN Today
Governments along the Salween River are pushing a series of hydropower dams across the river basin but offering little information on the status of the projects or their social and environmental impacts.

Thailand’s water shortage and inequality crisis - East Asia Forum
Local people, farmers and civil society organisations who have experienced a shortage of water, especially in the Northeast region of Thailand, observe that water shortage often becomes a political issue that is used to justify unfair water distribution and access.

Thailand's rush to cut emissions leaves automakers in the dust - Nikkei Asian Review
Thailand's sudden push for strict standards gives R&D little time to keep up. The government's decision to adopt two different sets of rules in two consecutive years "defies common sense," said an executive at a Japanese automaker.

The fight to save Bangkok from sinking into watery depths - CNA
A green basin, an urban farm and a floating home are among some of the solutions being devised to keep climate change and floodwaters at bay in the Thai capital.

Taps on eastern seaboard ‘won’t run dry’, says Prawit - Bangkok Post
The government has assured households on the eastern seaboard that their taps will not run dry over coming months.

7 swim to Koh Samui to raise marine ecosystem awareness - The Thaiger 
Seven swimmers, including actor and singer Phakhin Khamwilaisak, also know as “Tono”, have begun an 82 kilometre ocean swim for over 18 days to increase public awareness of the environment and the need to reserve Thailand’s marine ecosystem. 

VIETNAM

Mekong Delta forests face increasing risk of fires - Vietnam Net
All forests south of the Hậu River in the Cửu Long (Mekong) Delta have been facing the threat of fire since the middle of this month, and any fire would spread very quickly because of the heat and low humidity, local authorities have warned.

Challenges compels restructuring in agriculture - Vietnam News
The success of the Mekong delta region in changing crop structure in drought and salinity areas confined damaged areas to 39,000ha, equalling just 9.6 percent of the damage in 2016, the worst-hit year. (See also: Mekong Delta gets bumper crop despite saline intrusion - Vietnam+;  Measures sought to minimise drought's impact on rice production - Vietnam News; Đồng Nai wary of water shortage amid salt intrusion - Vietnam News)

Drought in the Mekong region prompts call for greater regional co-operation (opinion) - Future Directions
Vietnam could potentially lose a major part of its rice, fruit and vegetable production, which accounts for nearly 25 percent of its GDP. (See also: Mekong Delta hit by worst drought ever (Photo Essay) - Vietnam Express; UNDP assists Mekong Delta in drought response efforts - Vietnam+)

Vietnam introduces law aimed at fighting climate change - VoA
Vietnam has introduced legislation to advance its greenhouse gas reduction goals as per the Paris climate accord, decreasing worries the fast-growing nation’s reliance on coal would stymie those efforts.

Delta province steps up efforts to protect Trà Sư cajuput forest - Vietnam News
It would lay the foundation for international co-operation for the protection of wetlands and conservation of biodiversity in countries in the Lower Mekong sub-region. 

Armed police attack residents blocking entry to Vietnam waste plant - RFA
“We told them the landfill was under dispute, meaning no garbage trucks were supposed to enter, but the trucks had still come in droves. In the past, we [villagers] were just observing without taking action, but things took a different turn on March 13.”

REGIONAL CONTEX

Bucking global trends, Southeast Asian mangrove destruction is rampant - Eco-Business
Southeast Asia’s aggressive development to spur economic growth and feed its growing populations is stripping the region’s coasts of mangrove forests at rates faster than anywhere, new research shows.

Whose voices are not heard in climate change journalism in China, India, Thailand and Singapore? - Eco-Business
The mainstream news outlets of the four countries were similar in their heavy use of government sources. The crowding out of voices that can provide alternative viewpoints could have major implications, researchers say.

This solar-powered device aims to clean 1,000 rivers. Will it work? - Mongabay
The organization plans to deploy the devices in 1,000 of the world’s most polluting rivers, including the Mekong, in just five years to stem the flood of plastic entering the ocean. (See also: Plastic that travels 8,000 miles: the global crisis in recycling - Fortune)


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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