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NEWS DIGEST #224

May 28, 2019

Ministry asked about Mekong dredging plan - Phnom Penh Post
A member of the Supreme Consultation Forum says he has questioned the Ministry of Mines and Energy over its position regarding a proposed project to develop a sizeable stretch of the Mekong River, which would have a serious negative impact on the river’s biodiversity and cause more river bank collapses. (See also: SCC seeks input on firm’s request to dredge sand from two rivers - Khmer Times; Impact study on river bank ‘development’ begins - Phnom Penh Post)

Scorched earth development in Northern Laos - The Diplomat 
Entire mountains were raked away, and rectilinear geometries were imposed upon this land of jungled hills. The new railway was gashed through the landscape, covering villages with dust. (See also: China-Laos railway's 1st bridge span completed over Mekong River - Xinhua)
Saving our free-flowing rivers (opinion) - Myanmar Times
Although dam developers had promised to mitigate impacts along the Mekong River, its delta in Vietnam is sinking rapidly. We are now at a critical point for deciding the fate of the Ayeyarwady and Salween, and of all rivers worldwide. We need to fully understand and protect their value before it is too late.
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MEKONG DEVELOPMENT

Joint efforts for the sustainable development of the Mekong River - MRC
A forum focused on the achievements and lessons learnt in working together on cross-border issues, impacts and opportunities drawn from the MRC Mekong Integrated Water Resources Management (M-IWRM) Project. (See also: MRC forum raises urgent Mekong issues - Phnom Penh Post)

USAID Mekong Safeguards - USAID
This three-year program (2019-2021) promotes smarter, more sustainable infrastructure development, especially in transportation and power generation, to prevent environmental damage and depletion of natural resources in the Lower Mekong region.

GMS delegates meets at Siem Reap to review joint haze pollution control - AKP 
During the session, some 50 representatives of member countries including Cambodia, Laos, Myanmar, Thailand and Vietnam, ASEAN Secretariat, and international partners reviewed the progress of their joint commitment on the matter.

Thai and Cambodian Mekong Committees agree on risk mitigation measures - Khmer Times
The priorities include a flood and drought mitigation master plan for the 9C/9T sub-basin, an urban flood and drought management plan for Poipet city in Cambodia and Aranhpathet town in Thailand, database management on flood and drought, hydromet network improvements, and regional capacity building on flood and drought management.

CAMBODIA

Steely ambition: China's Baowu eyes moving blast furnaces to Cambodia - Reuters
The move, which would mark Baowu’s first overseas production, shows the lengths Chinese steelmakers are prepared to go to maintain output levels despite Beijing’s drive to cut industrial slack caused by shutting down many polluting steel mills. (See also: China steel company relocates to Cambodia - Phnom Penh Post)

WB: Cambodia among the fastest electrifying - Phnom Penh Post
Cambodia is currently among the fastest electrifying countries in the world, with coverage reaching 89.1 percent as of the end of 2017, a newly published World Bank report says.

"Garbage Youth" for a clean and green Cambodia - Khmer Times
“We put our wellbeing at risk, but we are willing to do that because we want to make the canal, and later the city, clean,” says the 29-year-old organizer. “We are doing this every day in the evening, usually from 4 until 7:30.”

Hydropower project in Cambodia helps fish to come home - China Daily
When talking about the fishway, engineering manager Nong Zuguan, who is responsible for the construction management of the fishway, said: "We made it into a natural fishway to fit into the surrounding environment, like a natural river. This is the way the fish came home."

First two phases of key river study done - AKP
The exercise intends to learn about the trend of Upper Mekong, Lower Mekong and Bassac Rivers toward better hydrological conservation and management of the country’s reservoirs.

Royal turtle remains critically endangered despite increased population - AKP
The reptile was believed to be extinct in Cambodia until 2000 when a group of experts from the United States rediscovered them in the system of Sre Ambel river, in the western part of Koh Kong province. (See also: 200 endangered giant softshell turtle hatchlings to be released into Mekong River - Xinhua)

Solar must be prioritised over hydropower – association - Khmer Times
Construction time for solar farms are shorter than for hydropower dams, and with demand for electricity skyrocketing, Cambodia needs to build energy infrastructure as fast as possible. (See also: ADB loans US$7.6M for solar power construction - Khmer Times)

LAOS

Laos silent about villager's jail death as exile rights groups demand answers - RFA
Sy Phong and another accused leader, Som Nuk, had protested outside district offices with a group of 25 residents of Salavan’s Dane Nhai village to call for the return of land given by the government to a Vietnamese company to grow eucalyptus trees, a local source told RFA.

Thailand-Laos forest planting activity held - Vietnam+
Thung Chang district in Nan province of Thailand has held an ASEAN forest planting activity as part of the campaign promoting security and strength in villages along Thailand-Laos border, enhancing both countries’ relations.

‘Tiger farms’ still operate in Laos, defying trafficking bans - RFA
And though Laos announced at an international conference in London in September 2016 that it would close all tiger farms within a year, the country’s trade in tigers has since boomed.

MYANMAR

Govt plans three-month mining moratorium in disaster-prone Hpakant - Myanmar Times
The moratorium will occur during the rainy season from July to August amid concerns about accidents.

Myanmar sets a slower pace for the Belt and Road - Frontier Myanmar
The bigger story from the Belt and Road Forum appears to have been what Myanmar didn’t sign, rather than what it did.

Seminar on knowledge sharing for better dams - Global New Light Myanmar
Myanmar's National Commission on Large Dams (MNCLD) held a  the seminar in Yangon last week to discuss how to better promote big hydroelectric dams.

Defending the jhum in the Naga hills
 - Frontier Myanmar
The approval of amendments to the Vacant, Fallow and Virgin Land Management Law in September has threatened the land tenure security of smallholder farmers across large areas of Myanmar. It is also endangering the Naga jhum system.

Golden deer threatened by record heat and an army land grab - Frontier Myanmar
A failed cotton project by two crony companies, a Tatmadaw land grab and extreme temperatures this year have contributed to a crisis for the deer population in a central dry zone sanctuary.

Ruby rush: Myanmar gem hunters exploit law change - Economic Times
Burrowing deep underground, thousands of informal miners risk their lives to find gleaming red gems as a law change spurs opportunity in Myanmar's "land of rubies".
(See also: Myanmar's ruby gems mining - in pictures - The Guardian)

Police in Myanmar raid village, arrest residents for protest against cement plant - RFA
Villagers demanded compensation for land they say they lost when an 18-foot-wide road was built as part of the project and urged authorities to address an influx of hundreds of Chinese employees who are working at the site.

THAILAND

In Pictures: Life along the Mekong in Thailand - National Geographic
Ostensibly the border between Thailand and Laos, the Mekong River serves more as a thread connecting the two cultures, making it a complex and fascinating prospect for visitors, far from the busy streets of Bangkok.

Project launched to introduce low-carbon rice farming - The Nation
The project would benefits 454,200 rice farmers and agriculture technology service providers, while the 2.58 million rais of target rice field in the rainy season and off-season rice growing were expected to yield a total of 4 million tonnes per year.

Toxic chemicals caused seaport fire - The Nation
Somnuck Jongmeewasin, a leading environmental expert of EEC Watch, said the incident showed that the Thailand Port Authority had completely failed to handle the situation by withholding critical information about the chemicals inside the ship. He said this had caused preventable harm to the local people and their own officers. (See also: Laem Chabang Port fire damage exceeds Bt100m  - The Nation)

Thai environmentalists join worldwide climate 'strike' - Yahoo
Hundreds of locals and tourists converged in the centre of the capital waving placards criticising plastic waste, meat eaters and global warming. (See also: Thai youth to join worldwide climate protests tomorrow - Thai PBS; Preventing climate change in the face of urbanisation - Bangkok Post)

Call for tourist limit on Koh Lan to solve garbage issue - The Nation
An independent environmental health expert has called for the number of visitors to Koh Lan in Chon Buri to be less than 5,000 per day to tackle the overwhelming garbage problem.

Exploring indicators to monitor and evaluate adaptation in Thailand’s agricultural sectors - UNDP
Thailand’s Ministry of Agriculture and Cooperatives (MoAC) hosted a workshop in Bangkok to enhance the technical capacity to monitor and evaluate (M&E) climate change adaptation in the country’s agriculture sectors. 

VIETNAM

In Vietnam's booming energy sector coal reigns, but renewables play catch-up - Today
Vietnam has forecast power generation will need to rise from about 47,000 megawatts (MW) currently to 60,000 MW by 2020 and 129,500 MW by 2030. (See also: Vietnam’s electricity sector projected to be bigger than Britain’s by mid-2020s - Hanoi Times)

Experts warn of ‘Debt-Trap’ for in Belt and Road Initiative as China bids for projects - RFA
Among the issues at play in Vietnam are infrastructure projects pursued by China, such as Vietnam’s proposed North-South Expressway. 

Timber mischief in Vietnam - ASEAN Post
Vietnamese officials have allowed Vietnamese traders to circumvent Cambodian law by allowing timber to enter Vietnam though unofficial crossings, avoiding inspection and taxation in Cambodia. (See also: Vietnam aims to raise Central Highlands’ forest cover to 49 percent by 2030 - Nhan Dan)

How Vietnam plans to prevent Illegal, Unreported and Unregulated fishing - The Diplomat
Overfishing, a recent commentary indicated, has put 64 percent of Southeast Asia’s total fisheries at risks ranging from medium to high levels; and it has caused substantial damages to the entire marine ecology in several ways. 

Grandma Ca: the 99-year-old standing up to Vietnam's coal rush - Bangkok Post
It's a story playing out across Vietnam, where a strong-fisted government is powering ahead with coal projects to meet the soaring energy demands of a turbo-charged economy.

Van Long Wetland Nature Reserve becomes Vietnam’s ninth Ramsar site - Nhan Dan
Located on the northernmost tip of the Pu Luong-Cuc Phuong limestone mountain range, the area is one of the few intact lowland inland wetland areas remaining in the Red River Delta. It is centred on a block of limestone karst outcrops that rise from the flat coastal plain of northern Vietnam.

REGIONAL CONTEXT

Asian renewable energy investment to overtake upstream O&G spending in 2020 - Reuters
Total capital expenditure in renewables will rise above US$30 billion in the region by 2020, just overtaking investment into exploration and production for oil and natural gas, the consultancy said.
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 nearly 6000 key development professionals, government officials, business leaders and journalists. Submit stories, press releases, resources or feedback to: editor@mekongeye.com
 
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