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NEWS DIGEST #216

March 12, 2019

Thailand says China drops plan to blast Mekong islets - Bangkok Post   According to Thailand's foreign minister, China as agreed to drop a plan to clear rocky outcrops and islets in the upper reaches of the Mekong River in the face of deep concern expressed by downstream countries. (See also: Lack of clarity on scrapping Mekong rapids blasting raises concerns - The Nation)
How investors offload risks & avoid liabilities from Lao hydropower - FOCUS
Assessments fail because investors will lose upfront project costs if the dam isn't approved and there's no effective independent regulatory system in Laos to ensure accurate project planning and accountability. 
European Commission gives boost to Vietnamese timber launderers - New Internationalist
Files obtained by New Internationalist show that the EC knowingly legitimized a Vietnamese government agency that facilitated the theft of roughly half a billion dollars of endangered species. (See also: European Parliament to vote on timber legality agreement with Vietnam - Mongabay)
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MEKONG DEVELOPMENT

Cambodia, Laos, VN work to remove obstacles to cross-border trade - Vietnam+
A forum to promote investment, trade and tourism between Cambodia, Laos, and Vietnam was held in Kratie province, Cambodia on March 9 as part of the 12th meeting of the Joint Coordination Committee on the CLV Development Triangle Area. (See also: VN to build plan for CLV trade promotion - Phnom Penh Post; Thailand offers loans for Cambodia, Laos, Myanmar and Vietnam entrepreneurs - Myanmar Times)

Women’s rights and river protection - Asia Times
On the Mekong and elsewhere women around the world who depend upon and steward freshwater resources face similar threats as they grapple with longstanding gender inequities in decision-making on water control and management.

EU study boost fight against illegal wildlife trade in Mekong region - Myanmar Times
The report, entitled “Larger than Tigers”, hopes to encourage the Greater Mekong countries, which include Myanmar, to intensify efforts against the illegal wildlife trade, which is a threat to biodiversity in the region.

CAMBODIA

Sustaining the heartbeat of the Mekong Basin - China Dialogue
The Mekong River is often depicted as originating in the Qinghai-Tibet Plateau, but the Mekong has another point of origin: the Tonle Sap Lake in Cambodia. Each year life springs from the lake, but this rich resource is threatened by upstream dam construction, overfishing, unregulated agricultural practices and climate change.

Cambodia is finding solutions to climate change by empowering women - UN Environment
Renewable energy policies in Asia almost never factor in gender and marginalized groups unless they actively engage women. 

Sustainable development project with Sweden approved - Khmer Times
This new project will test and demonstrate innovative approaches to protect natural resources and the environment by reducing waste and providing clean and affordable energy,

Government says ‘yes’ to Japan’s smart city initiative - Khmer Times
The program will deal mostly with urban management and the use of IT to develop modern urban spaces – thus effectively joining the Public-Private Platform for Urban Development between Cambodia and Japan. (See also: Government of Japan supports recovery and strengthens resilience of flood victims in Cambodia - UN Habitat)

Poisoning, hunting and logging: The Kingdom’s wildlife is under attack - Phnom Penh Post
Critically endangered birds are being killed by poisons used in hunting, and the general public must be very cautious about eating wild animals sold at local markets, as they may have been killed using poison.

LAOS

Experts question need for proposed Laos-Vietnam rail link - RFA
The project lacks economic merit. Meanwhile, thousands of Lao families ordered from their land and homes to make way for the high-speed railway linking the country with China are still waiting for compensation promised by their government though construction has surged ahead. (See also: Lao-Thai high speed rail link to be operational in 2023  - Vientiane Times; Lao president vows to advance building of community of shared future with China - China.org)

Lao government considers tax to protect environment - Phnom Penh Post
Industries that produce pollution may have to pay more taxes now that the Lao government has embraced the National Green Growth Strategy.

Crazier than fiction: the elephant rangers of Laos - Geographical
An innovative project to utilise Laos’ elephant experts in service of protecting the country’s natural treasures is waiting on just one thing – government approval.

Attapeu flood victims to receive 2,221 tonnes of rice - Vientiane Times
Authorities are working in Attapeu to improve conditions in Sanamxay district by repairing bridges and roads that were damaged during the flood. Many families are still without health services, hygiene and sanitation, and the provision of general consumer items.

MYANMAR

Will China decide the future of Myanmar’s rivers? - China Dialogue
Local people have their own set of demands. They are calling for transparency, public participation, and meaningful decision-making power in resource governance. 

Myanmar’s Myitsone Dam dilemma - The Diplomat
Pitted against the wounded ego of Beijing and the anger of Chinese hydropower investors are very high stakes on Myanmar’s side of the fence: national pride, self-determination, and the protection of its richly diverse ecosystem.

Advancing Myanmar’s gender equality - Myanmar Times
Eduction is critical to overcoming conventions, beliefs, values, attitudes, and prejudices based on traditions and historical experience woven throughout Myanmar society.

Land seizures, protests, and arrests in Myanmar - The Diplomat
Despite arrests, detention, and torture, land rights activists in Myanmar are refusing to be silenced. (See also: Halt land law implementation says HRW - Mizzima)

Ayeyarwady: nation's most important single natural resource needs dedicated management authority - Frontier Myanmar
It’s time that the nation’s most important single natural resource benefitted from a dedicated management authority.

THAILAND

Zero waste: one community gets rid of it all without burning  - The Nation
Ban Paen Pong Chai, which covers 10 villages in Lampang’s Chae Hom district, has emerged as a shining example for others to follow.

Breath in Thailand and die sooner: research - Khaosod
On average, Bangkokians will live 2.4 years less, while people in Chiang Mai and Chiang Rai will respectively see 3.6 and 3.9 fewer summers. (See also: North chokes on toxic haze largely from Myanmar fires The Nation; Chiang Mai tops world pollution charts - Khaosod; Thailand ranks world’s 23rd most polluted country - Thai PBS)

30 smart cities targeted to start as first proposal call launches - Bangkok Post
The government is gearing up to achieve its target of 30 smart cities in 24 provinces by next year and hopes to transform 100 cities nationwide to smart cities by 2022.

Questions raised over Cabinet nod for SCG use of forest reserve - The Nation
Parts of the forest reserve approved for SCG’s use are located in a top-grade headwater area, and it's suspected that these parts might have sat inside a national park that was established in 2016.

Govt urged to extend EEC incentives to local businesses - The Nation
Civil society groups have called on the government to extend the special privileges it is offering to investors in the Eastern Economic Corridor to local business activities and sustainable development.

VIETNAM

Saltwater intrusion hits Mekong Delta - Vietnam+
This year saltwater intrusion is expected to be more serious than last year and the salt content higher as well.

Women power helps boost Vietnam’s economy - VNS
There are around 145,000 small-and-medium-sized enterprises (SMEs) currently run by women in Vietnam. Such SMEs businesses play a crucial role for growth, contributing 30 percent of GDP and more than half of job creation.

Ho Chi Minh City: How Vietnam’s emerging megacity will develop - Vietnam Briefing
Megacity has become a buzzword associated with rapid urbanization and economic development. For Vietnam, the commercial capital Ho Chi Minh City is often identified within this narrative. 

IUCN launches toolkit to boost gender integration in coastal resource management - Vietnam News
The toolkit aims to help coastal and fisheries management practitioners, such as programme officers and technical advisors from development and environmental agencies, develop baseline knowledge around gender dimensions related to coastal and natural resources use, livelihood development and ecosystem management.

HCM City to crack down on pollution - Vietnam News
The HCM City People’s Committee has announced an action plan in 2016-20 to reduce environmental pollution.

REGIONAL CONTEXT

Coral reefs are now in danger of getting diseases caused by plastic pollution in the oceans - Health Throroughfare
The team examined more than 120,000 corals on 159 coral reefs. Some of them were polluted with plastic while others were not. The sources were Thailand, Australia, Myanmar, and Indonesia.
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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