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NEWS DIGEST #219

April 9, 2019

Laos urged to address dam project impacts - Khmer Times
Cambodia, Thailand and Vietnam have urged fellow Mekong River Commission member Laos to address cross-border and environmental impact issues following consultations on its Pak Lay hydropower dam project. (See also: Statement on Prior Consultation process for Pak Lay agreed, Joint Action Plans for Pak Beng and Pak Lay approved - MRC)
Lancang-Mekong Cooperation: Blessing or curse? - The ASEAN Post
As the partnership enters its fourth year, some are questing that while Chinese investment may be a source of capital, there are many risks from LMC projects which are often contained within opaque, non-binding agreements.
Compostable wild grass straws are Vietnam's newest zero-waste straw option - Green Matters  A Vietnam-based company makes two kinds of straws out of sedge grass, which grows wild along the Mekong Delta. (See also: Vietnamese man makes eco-friendly straws - Nextshark)
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MEKONG DEVELOPMENT

Policy gaps plague lower Mekong amidst hydropower backlash - Asian Power
Countries along the famous river basin need to strengthen legislation and consider non-hydro alternatives amidst climate change threats, experts say.

Cooperation never so needed for future of Mekong River basin - Phnom Penh Post
Pich Hatda, CEO of the Mekong River Commission Secretariat asks for the continued input from and cooperation between all stakeholders, "...only together can we ensure a resilient future for the Mekong River basin and its people."

MRC awards green campaign winners to raise awareness of plastic pollution - Phnom Penh Post
The six winners were selected from 85 people who had posted their environmental action as part of the “Let’s Act Green for a Greener Mekong” campaign.

Kerry Logistics signs MOU with Sitthi Logistics to develop dry port in Laos - Vietnam News
The move is part of Kerry Logistics' development strategy to seek accelerated growth in ASEAN by developing an integrated Greater Mekong Region platform covering Thailand, Cambodia, Myanmar and Laos.

CAMBODIA

Cambodian prime minister threatens to cut citizens electricity if they complain about outages - VOA
Hun Sen said unnamed political analysts could see the restrictions imposed if they continued to make statements suggesting the outages were a ploy to provide a pretext for more hydropower development in the country. (See also: Chinese construction rush aggravates Cambodia's electricity shortage - Nikkei Asian Review; Cambodia asks Vietnam to increase electricity supply - AKP)

Cambodia announces hydropower, solar projects amid widespread electricity shortages - RFA
Cambodia’s government on Friday approved a hydropower dam and solar energy plant projects in a bid to ease the strain on the country’s electricity grid, which has been unable to meet supply demand, leading to nationwide outages over the past several weeks.

Cambodia’s endangered river dolphins at highest population in 20 years - National Geographic
Once believed to number in the thousands, the dolphins of the Mekong River were devastated by war, hunting, and indiscriminate net fishing.

Hundreds hold protest at ministry over land dispute - Khmer Times
Nhim Ran, a resident from Thpong district, said that they gathered again at the ministry because they want it to expedite the 10-year-old dispute which has affected their livelihoods, resulting in their children being unable to attend school. (See also: Cambodian activist urges authorities to free son, villagers detained amid land dispute - RFA)

Cambodia steps up fight against climate change - UN Office of Disaster Risk Reduction
Considered one of the most vulnerable countries in the world to the effects of climate change, the Royal Government of Cambodia is taking major steps to improve its resilience and reduce its disaster risk with support from the UN Office for Disaster Risk Reduction.

Minister defends 45,000ha Chinese development - VOA
Minister dismisses concerns that the massive airport and seaport project in Koh Kong province will be used for Chinese military purposes.

Cambodian, Thai railroads to be linked this month - Khmer Times
Speaking during a cabinet meeting last week, the premier said the railway networks of both countries will be connected on April 22 during a ceremony that he will preside. (See also: Ministry plans new rail route to Cambodia - Bangkok Post)

LAOS

More native rail workers, says Laos - Khmer Times
President Bounnhang Vorachit called for more Lao workers to be employed by the Laos-China Railway Project when he visited a section of the railway under construction in Vientiane on Friday. (See also: Employ more Lao to help build railway: President - Vientiane Times; Lao president hails China-Laos Railway construction - Xinhua; President Bounnhang urges Laos-China Railway Project to meet quality standards - LNA)

Energy sector powering growth in Laos - Xinhua
Laos expects to generate about 33,874 million kWh worth about 16,575 billion kip (some US$1.9 billion) in 2019. It aims to export about 25,625 million kWh worth about US$1.45 billion, while local consumption will be about 6,287 million kWh.

Chinese investors scrambling to buy into Laos’ Boten SEZ ahead of railway - RFA
Local villagers are fearful of the rapid change, saying that the development will be good for the Chinese, but not for the Laotians who currently live there.

Flood recovery efforts to get additional funding - Vientiane Times
The World Bank has approved additional funding for two Lao projects designed to build climate change resilient infrastructure and rehabilitate flood-affected areas of the country. (See also: Govt presents way forward for post-flood recovery - Vientiane Times)

World Bank reaffirms support for Lao green growth initiative - Phnom Penh Post
Vision laid out will be key to ensuring that economic growth is more broad-based and does not come at the expense of the country's natural resources.

Govt creates two national parks - Vientiane Times
The government has created two national parks in northern and central Laos to protect forests, biodiversity, natural beauty and the country’s geological development.

MYANMAR

Myanmar villagers protest Chinese plans for land along pipeline route - RFA
Burmese farmers barred for five years from planting crops along the route of a Chinese oil and gas line are protesting new requests by an affiliate of the pipeline company to take control of the adjoining land once restrictions end.

Myitsone—Decision time for the ‘People’s Leader’ - Irrawaddy
Is the Myitsone Dam just another damned problem for Myanmar? This issue in particular seems to have both constructive and destructive potential; politically, it could save or slay a leader of the country. (See also: People's Party calls to publicize provisions of Mytisone project contract as promised - Eleven Myanmar; Myitsone Dam protests will impact Myanmar economic development--China expert - Mizzima)

Local Karen defend Myanmar's remaining environmental treasures - The Diplomat
Unique programs led by indigenous peoples are protecting wildlife biodiversity in Karen state.

Dispossessed: the human toll of Myanmar's land crisis - Frontier Myanmar
A highly centralised regime for governing “wasteland” is being expanded, with devastating effects on communities trying to reclaim their land after decades of war. (See also: Nowhere to go: Myanmar farmers under siege from land law - World Bank; Myanmar’s farmers fighting a losing battle - The ASEAN Post)

Myanmar evaluates renewable energy in garment factories - Just Style
Apparel factory managers met with solar companies and regional garment associations in Myanmar last week to discuss the potential for renewable energy in the sector.

THAILAND

The red tape is killing us, not the haze (opinion) - Bangkok Post
The toxic haze has been engulfing the North of Thailand for over a month. Chiang Mai has occupied the top spot as the city with the worst air quality in the world--a new normal. That said, the governor still refused to declare the area a natural disaster zone. (See also: Thailand prepares masks for ASEAN meeting due to air pollution - Reuters; Experts demand better policies to end monoculture maize farming in North - The Nation; Industry Ministry plans end to sugarcane burning in three years - Thai PBS; Is “Dirty Air” the new normal for Thailand? - Thailand Business Journal)

Against the tide: Thai 'floating temple' defies coastal erosion - The Nation
As sea waters slowly rose around his temple and his neighbours fled inland, Thai abbot Somnuek Atipanyo refused to budge and is today a symbol of the fight to restore the country's fast-eroding coastlines. (See also: Coastal erosion, climate change threaten to drown Thailand’s ‘floating’ monastery - SCMP)

Canal's redevelopment sees local hopes swell - Bangkok Post
Khlong Lat Phrao, a major canal in Bangkok, was once known for its putrid water, proliferation of rubbish and land encroachment along its banks. Yet, rehabilitation efforts by the Bangkok Metropolitan Administration offer hope the canal area can once again become a livable environment.

VIETNAM

Southern region plans to grow other crops on low-yield rice fields - VietnamNet
The Mekong Delta and the south-eastern region plan to grow other crops on more than 126,300ha of low-yield rice fields this year as a means of adapting to climate change and improving farmers’ incomes.

Renewable energy: the future of power for Vietnam - EV Wind
Vietnam could meet its long-term energy demands by adding renewable energy sources and cutting-edge battery storage technologies to its arsenal of solutions, experts said at a two-day international conference on renewable energy. (See also: The problems of coal-fired thermal power in Vietnam - VietnamNet)

Questions remain as Vietnam reaches major REDD+ milestone - Mongabay
Technically this means results-based payments for forest-related carbon reductions can be rolled out, but there is no framework for such a system yet.

Workshop highlights importance of climate risk management - VietnamNet
Climate risk management, covering climate risk insurance, is playing an increasingly important role in preventing and mitigating losses caused by climate change, experts said at a workshop in Hanoi this week.

Work accelerated on master plan for Mekong Delta’s sustainable development - Vietnam+
Critical as the delta accounts for 12 percent of natural acreage and 19 percent of the population and is the nation's biggest agricultural hub, but is threatened by climate change.

Vietnam rejects international finding on Hanoi air pollution - Vietnam Express
The World Air Quality Report released early last month concluded that Hanoi had the second worst air quality in Southeast Asia.

Large forested areas of Ca Mau face high risks of wildfire - VietnamNet
More than 26,200 ha out of the 43,500 ha of forested area in the Mekong Delta province of Ca Mau are facing extremely high risks of wildfire.

REGIONAL CONTEXT

Asian media has misled the public on air pollution - The Wire
The new report Hazy Perceptions analyzed more than half a million social media posts from across the region and "...finds that public perceptions about air pollution do not match the evidence." 

Asean launches US$1-billion initiative for green projects - Thailand Business
"Through the ASEAN Catalytic Green Finance Facility, ADB will support ASEAN governments in developing green and climate-friendly infrastructure projects,” ADB President Takehiko Nakao said in a statement.

Can technology save ASEAN’s food supplies? - The Interpreter
A pressing need to feed a big population with little agricultural land and shirking fish stocks could spur innovation.
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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