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NEWS DIGEST #233

July 30, 2019

Families search for recompense a year after deadly Laos dam collapse - VOA
Some 5,000 displaced villagers from the July 2018 Xe Pian-Xe Namnoy dam collapse are still living in temporary camps in Laos in sweltering, tightly packed tin shacks, surviving on irregular allowances and thin rations from the government.  (See also: “Who Will Take Responsibility for Our Loss?” (report) - International Rivers; One year from Laos dam collapse, insurers urged to help - Nikkei Asian Review; Stop work on Lao dam and help victims: groups - Asia Time; Villagers remain destitute by deadly Lao dam collapse - UCA News; China claims its Laos railway project brings new life, bright future a year after Lao dam disaster - Xinhua)

Thailand's pangolin pipeline - Mekong Eye/Nation Thailand
Pangolins are the world's most trafficked mammal. Thailand’s proximity to China and Vietnam, the world’s two primary markets for pangolins, combined with its well-developed transportation infrastructure, have attracted criminal syndicates specializing in illegal wildlife trade to take root here.
War and business: Kachin’s ‘frontline’ hydropower dam - Frontier Myanmar
Despite Myanmar’s dire need for power, a US$250 million hydropower plant on the front lines of the Kachin conflict has been largely idle since it opened in 2011. When the Chinese state-owned firm began work in 2007, the company issued a flowery statement describing locals dressed in traditional costumes, dancing to the beat of drums. “The mood is full of happiness,” the company claimed.
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MEKONG DEVELOPMENT

Dams threaten way of life in Mekong countries - Nikkei Asian Review
The operation of dams along the Mekong River is exacerbating conditions in a particularly dry year and choking off a lifeline for Thailand, Cambodia and Vietnam. (See also: Missing Mekong waters rouse suspicions of China - Reuters; Don grateful to China, Laos for opening Mekong dams - Nation Thailand)

Worrying days for the Mekong (opinion) - ASEAN Post
With the need to generate power from the upriver dams seemingly a greater priority than the livelihoods of people living in downstream communities – and with climate change an increasing concern – low water levels are set to be a recurring event in the coming years. (See also: Droughts, hydroelectric dams deplete Mekong River despite arrival of rainy season - SCMP)

Interview: ‘China needs to put its money where its mouth is and actually release some water to relieve the drought’ - RFA
RFA’s Vietnamese Service interviewed Brian Eyler, the Southeast Asia Program Director for the Stimson Center, to discuss the exact causes of the drought and how the dams affect the ecology of the Mekong region. 

CAMBODIA

Cambodia’s electric Chinese aid and investment affair - East Asia Forum
Due to Cambodia’s weak regulatory system, investor Royal Group displaced Lower Se San dam-affected villagers for a fraction of what a similar resettlement would have cost in China. Villagers suffered while Royal Group exploited its close ties with the regime to profit enormously.

Pray and protect: faith saves forests of Cambodia - Reuters
Khoeum Saray is among a dozen or so monks managing a project that is hailed as a model for conservation in a nation with one of the world’s fastest rates of deforestation.

Activists launch ‘Rescue Island’ campaign for Koh Kong Krao - Phnom Penh Post
Environmental activists have launched the “Rescue Island” campaign to urge the government to preserve Koh Kong province’s Koh Kong Krao island, Cambodia’s largest, as a national park.

Fifth dead Irrawaddy dolphin of year found - Phnom Penh Post
A Mekong River conservation area head ranger told The Post on Tuesday that a fifth Irrawaddy dolphin has been found dead due to illegal fishing. (See also: Men nabbed for dolphin zone fishing - Phnom Penh Post)

Scientists at work: bridging the divide between development and conservation in Cambodia - MENAFN
If we are to successfully secure both the livelihoods of local people and the future of endangered species, then it is essential conservation is reconciled with development. 

Three Chinese charged over illegal logging linked to tycoon - Khmer Times
Mondulkiri Provincial Court yesterday charged three Chinese nationals and is questioning a provincial environment department and two forestry administration officials over illegal logging activities linked to tycoon Soeng Sam Ol.

LAOS

Severe drought in Mekong region reduces rice planting in Laos - RFA
Lao farmers have planted rice on less than half the country’s cultivable land this year because of a persistent drought in the Mekong River region that has seen severely reduced water levels and the delay of seasonal monsoon rains which have yet to begin. (See also: Laos hit by worst drought in decades - Laotian Times)

Xayaburi Dam partly to blame for Mekong Basin crisis: activists - Nation Thailand
Activists say some of the blame for the severe water shortage in the Mekong River Basin lies with the Xayaburi hydropower dam in Laos. (See also: Xayaburi Dam in clear, says operator
 - Bangkok Post)


Receding rivers leave villagers unfazed - ANN/Vientiane Times
There have been many reports about the alarmingly low level of the Mekong this rainy season, both in Laos and in neighbouring countries, but other rivers are also shrinking.

Work on Mekong railway bridge running ahead of schedule - Vientiane Times
The 1,458.9-metre long bridge spans the Mekong between central Luang Prabang and the other side of the river in Chomphet district. The bridge has five main piers including 34 spans planted in the river.
 

MYANMAR

Aung San Suu Kyi's Myanmar dam dilemma with China - BBC
In 2011, construction work on a massive dam project in Myanmar's restive Kachin state was halted after large protests. China is now lobbying hard for the work to resume, but as BBC News Burmese's Soe Soe Htoon found, local people are still not convinced they will ever see its benefits. (See also: 'The dam project will make my village disappear' - BBC)

Myanmar’s lifeblood in peril - Myanmar Times
The Ayeyarwady River, dubbed the lifeblood of Myanmar and home to a threatened species of dolphin, is being suffocated by tonnes of plastic being dumped into it every day. It has been ranked the ninth most polluted river in the world, behind the Philippines’ Pasig and South America’s Amazon. (See also: More than 100 tons of plastic waste enter Irrawaddy River daily - The Irrawaddy)

Conditions nearly set for Dawei SEZ initial phase to begin - The Irrawaddy
The Myanmar government is currently negotiating the conditions precedent (CPs) with the concessionaires for the initial phase of construction work on the Dawei Special Economic Zone (SEZ), a US$8-billion project that includes a deep seaport. The strategic project in southern Myanmar’s Tanintharyi Region is set to be Southeast Asia’s largest industrial complex. (See also: Dawei SEZ stands better chance with Japanese participation, officials say - Myanmar Times)

Myanmar issues tender for rooftop PV - PV Magazine
The nation is targeting an unspecified capacity of solar PV systems to be installed on households and public facilities across several of its regions. The successful projects will be jointly financed by the World Bank and the government of Myanmar. (See also: Solar power shines in Myanmar - ASEAN Post)

Police among 18 feared killed in landslide at Myanmar jade mine - Channel News Asia
The government has ordered all mining activity in Hpakant to cease during Myanmar's May-October monsoon season, but people in the area say scavengers still scour tailing piles for jade.

Plastic pollution piles the pressure on Myanmar's troubled turtles - Fauna & Flora 
A new survey has revealed yet another hurdle facing Myanmar's already-threatened turtle hatchlings: plastic. As if avoiding being harvested as eggs and enduring soaring nest temperatures were not enough, these helpless newborns must now clamber over washed-up plastic bottle caps, coffee sachets and food packaging on their hazardous journey down the beach to reach the relative safety of the sea.

THAILAND

Damming Isan's last river for cash (opinion) - Bangkok Post
The Songkhram River, the last river with a slight semblance of natural flow and connectivity with the Mekong River, is threatened by one of the least transparent bureaucracies, the Royal Irrigation Department.

Dams drying up, drought may drag into 2020 - Nation Thailand
With water levels still critical at several dams around Thailand, officials speculate that drought impacts could persist into 2020, possibly having a catastrophic effect on next year’s growing season.

Will restricting numbers protect Thailand against excessive tourism? - Borneo Post
By enacting measures to preserve natural and heritage sites, Thailand is stepping up efforts to protect its visitor attractions and promote sustainable tourism. (See also: WWF Thailand pushes for sustainable tourism and preservation - The Thaiger)

Thai govt urged not to buy power from Laos dam - ASEAN Post
The Thai government must suspend plans to buy electricity from the Thai-built Xayaburi dam in Loas, conservationists said Friday, as water levels along the kingdom's section of Mekong river plummet to near-record lows.

Thailand has a developing economy and a big first world problem - Bloomberg
Thailand is breaking new, treacherous ground by becoming the first big country to get old before it’s had a chance to become prosperous.

Thailand’s plastic-filled seas claim another endangered turtle - Pattaya Mail
An autopsy determined that the turtle died from eating garbage, including plastic bags, which turtles confuse for jellyfish.

Calls for suspension of EEC city plan - Bangkok Post
A group of residents is urging Prime Minister Prayut Chan-o-cha to suspend a city plan being mulled for development of massive Eastern Economic Corridor (EEC) project, saying it lacks local input.

VIETNAM

Water shortage a looming crisis for Vietnam - Vietnam News
Construction of hydropower plants along rivers was blocking the flow, causing water shortages for people living downstream.

JICA, VASS step up cooperation for Vietnam’s sustainable development - Vietnam+
The two will work together in building socio-economic development plans for the Mekong delta province of Ben Tre and the northern mountainous province of Ha Giang, and doing research on newly emerging countries in Asia.

Vietnam should forget about high speed railway until 2030 - Vietnam Express
What we need now is expressways, which, with strong determination and swift actions, we can basically complete in around 10 or 15 years.

National highway section may collapse into Mekong Delta - Vietnam Experss
The delta is losing 500 hectares of land to sea and river erosion every year, according to the Ministry of Agriculture and Rural Development.

Water supply–sanitation project benefits 1.4 million people - Vietnam+
The World Bank-funded Program for Results (PforR) of rural water supply and sanitation in eight Red River Delta provinces has so far benefited 1.4 million residents.
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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