Copy
View this email in your browser

NEWS DIGEST #302

March 1, 2021
Mekong River levels 'slightly' rise amid conflicting regional data - Reuters
The inter-governmental Mekong River Commission said last week that levels on the vital waterway have “slightly” increased and it would look into why its outflow data from Chinese dams upstream differed from data later given by Beijing.
Thailand court rejects appeal for petition against Laos’ Pak Beng Dam - Radio Free Asia
A court in Thailand has refused to hear an appeal on a case concerning a large-scale Mekong River mainstream dam in Laos, a blow to Thai civic groups concerned about the dam’s potential transboundary environmental impact.
Environment ministry builds digital map, responding to 1-billion tree programme - Vietnam News
The map’s database, including information about tree species, planting process and characteristics of trees during the growing process, was expected to improve the efficiency of managing and taking care of trees nationwide.
Share Share
Tweet Tweet
Forward Forward

MEKONG DEVELOPMENT

Water levels on the Mekong River are declining sharply: Who is to blame? - ASEAN Today
The Mekong’s normal flow can be restored if large volumes of water are consistently and reliably released from Chinese dam reservoirs. However, China’s water policy shows Beijing is unlikely to change its behavior and the worst for the Mekong is yet to come.

China dams continue to hinder water flow on the Mekong river - Chiang Rai Times/Nikkei Asia
But it is not about China alone, because there is a need for governance of the river that recognizes its ecological value and its multiple uses for millions of local communities.

US pledges to enhance cooperation with Mekong subregion’s countries - Vietnam+
The US will bolster support for countries in the Mekong subregion through the Mekong-US partnership, US Principal Deputy Assistant Secretary of State for the Bureau of East Asian and Pacific Affairs Atul Keshap said at a recent online seminar to reveal results of a report on transboundary rivers and addressing challenges in Mekong River. (See also: Supporting a healthy, sustainable Mekong River - US State Department;  After Brahmaputra, Chinese dam on Mekong raises hackles in US - MENAFN; Chinese proposed dam on Mekong River raises hackles in US - Sentinel Assam)

Japanese grant to support Mekong River monitoring  - Phnom Penh Post
Japan has provided nearly US$3 million in grants to the Mekong River Commission (MRC) to fund the implementation of its new strategic plan to monitor the water level of the Mekong River and promote sustainable development.

Why communist anti-corruption campaigns never work (opinion) - The Diplomat
Ongoing anti-graft campaigns in Vietnam and Laos focus on officials’ moral conduct without addressing the political structures that incentivize corruption.

CAMBODIA

Logging accelerates in Cambodia’s Prey Lang Sanctuary - The Diplomat
The pace of deforestation has increased in line with the government’s clampdown on environmental defenders. (See also: Widespread illegal logging in Prey Lang rainforest amid ban on community patrols - Amnesty International; Illegal logging at Prey Lang worsened after patrol bans, says Amnesty International - VoA; Illegal loggers carving up rainforest - Phnom Penh Post; Gov’t rejects logging claims  - Phnom Penh Post) 

Lake project’s impact ‘minimal’ - Phnom Penh Post
The Phnom Penh Municipal Hall and the Ministry of Environment have issued responses to questions posed by UN Special Rapporteurs regarding the development of the Boeung Tompun and Boeung Choeung Ek wetlands to the south and southwest of the capital by ING Holdings. 

‘A disgrace’: Luxury housing plans threaten Cambodia’s Bokor National Park - Mongabay
The park gained official protected status in 1993, yet was awarded to Cambodian tycoon Sok Kong in 2007 as a 99-year concession for US$1 billion. In the intervening years, Kong’s company has developed an access road, luxury hotels and condominiums in Bokor.

Ministries to cooperate on forest protection plan - Phnom Penh Post
Officials from multiple ministries will join administrators from the Royal Academy of Cambodia for a visit this week to the Techo Sen Russey Treb Park in Preah Vihear province in preparation for setting up a joint mechanism to combat poaching and other forestry crimes.

Cambodian land dispute victims hold mass protest demanding release of activists - RFA
Land dispute victims from nearly half of Cambodia’s two dozen provinces gathered in their respective communities Tuesday as part of a solidarity protest demanding that the government drop charges against six activists arrested over the past three years after working on their behalf.

Families face water shortage as Banteay Meanchey river dries up  - Phnom Penh Post
More than 4,000 families in an urban area of Banteay Meanchey province’s Mongkol Borei district are facing clean water shortages as the Mongkol Borei River has dried up due to farmers over-pumping water to irrigate their dry-season rice crops.

Pursat wildlife sanctuary ups surveillance - Khmer Times
The Ministry of Environment has installed ten additional cameras-traps  in Phnom Somkhos wildlife sanctuary, Pursat province, to see if the area needs to be protected further.

LAOS

New dam management guidelines to minimise water issues - Vientiane Times
If water levels in downstream rivers dry up or are insufficient for use in a way that affects biodiversity and agricultural and industrial production and has other impacts, the operators are obliged to provide notification of the situation. (See also: Laos issues new decree on dams aimed at minimising harm - Reuters)

New project to protect landscapes and enhance livelihoods - Modern Diplomacy
The World Bank’s Board of Executive Directors last week approved a US$57 million project to help Laos promote sustainable forest management, improve protected area management, and enhance livelihoods opportunities in eight provinces across the country.

China-Laos railway may be ‘badly needed good news’ for Beijing. And the region?  - SCMP
Set to open this year, the link will be watched closely after several Chinese-funded rail projects abroad were viewed as mixed blessings. The route is an important piece in the greater prize of infrastructure access to Southeast Asia.

MYANMAR

Can a dam deal buy Beijing’s support for Myanmar’s junta? - Foreign Policy
If China takes the bait and resumes this and other deeply unpopular hydropower projects in partnership with the new junta, it is likely to permanently alienate the people of Myanmar, including their democratic leaders.

Military coup, economic sanctions hike threats to Myanmar's forests - Reuters
Myanmar’s forests are one of its most valuable natural resources, but have been plundered by logging which helped fund the former military regime that ran the country for 49 years, before an unsteady transition to democracy began in 2011.

Oil companies under scrutiny in Myanmar as pro-democracy protests turn deadly - Upstream 
International upstream players Total, Unocal (Chevron) and Australia’s Woodside — the last of which has an ongoing exploration campaign offshore Myanmar — are among companies that have signed up to the ‘Statement by Concerned Businesses Operating in Myanmar’ co-ordinated by the Myanmar Centre for Responsible Business (MCRB).

THAILAND

Reversing the damage done by the Rasi Salai dam - Prachatai
Locals in Rasi Salai have depended on fishing as a sustainable source of food and income for generations. But as the dam caused water levels to rise, traditional fish spawning grounds disappeared affecting both diversity and the health of fish populations. 

Land of their hearts: the Bang Kloi indigenous Karen community on their long road home - Prachatai
Tthe Bang Kloi-Chai Phaen Din community continues to face unresolved community rights issues, including lack of land and loss of their traditional way of life. They are also not allowed to return to their ancestral homeland. (See also: PM: Government won't use force in Bang Kloi - Bangkok PostKaren call for forest land for farming - Bangkok Post)

Mekong needs tough govt stance (editorial) - Bangkok Post
China knows full well that millions of people depend on the river for their livelihoods. The country said it believes cordial relations should do more to ease this crisis for Thailand and other downstream countries.

New dam to address Northeast drought - Bangkok Post
The Royal Irrigation Department is building the Lam Nam Chi reservoir in Ban Khwao district of this northeastern province to help alleviate the chronic water shortage in the kingdom's northeastern region.

Klity Creek lead cleanup stumbles  - Bangkok Post
Pollution in Klity Creek in the deep forest of Kanchanaburi province has been a health and environmental threat for villagers who relied for water consumption for decades. Three years ago, authorities launched a cleanup -- the first state-supervised environmental cleanup in Thailand, but villagers and independent experts said it's been a failure. 

VIETNAM

Chinese dams, pollution send Vietnamese in Mekong Delta in search of greener pastures - SCMP
 Local communities fear diminished prospects as the country’s agricultural powerhouse loses steam amid China’s upstream energy ventures. With the delta’s fertility at risk because of pollution and other factors, can sustainable farming, renewable energies and a master plan reinvigorate the region?

Red River's clear colors blamed on dams, pollution - VietnamNet
Vu Dinh Thuy, deputy director of Lao Cai’s Natural Resources and Environment Department, said this is not the first time the Red River has changed into such a color and this phenomenon has happened around this time of year for the past five years. "Maybe the reason is that the natural alluvium that has always flowed down naturally from further upstream has been absent; and also northern Vietnam has had no rainfall this season (to muddy the waters)."

Ministry proposes establishment of Ramsar site network - Vietnam+
The management of Ramsar sites in the country still faces difficulties, and the Ramsar Convention’s objectives and strategic plans on conservation and the sound use of wetlands have not been fully and promptly implemented, resulting in the threat of biodiversity reduction at these sites.

Delta farmers use small irrigation works to adapt to climate change - Vietnam News
The Cửu Long (Mekong) Delta province of Kiên Giang will focus on small irrigation works and in-field irrigation works in the 2021- 25 period with an aim to restructure crop and animal cultivation and adapt to climate change.    

Vietnam ranks third regionally in renewable energy transformation - Vietnam+
Vietnam ranks third in Asia-Pacific in transforming into renewable energy, with the country’s renewable additions index reaching 46, which means renewable energy accounts for 46 percent of the total capacity of energy projects under construction. 

Mitsubishi pulls out of Vietnam coal plant amid climate concerns - Nikkei Asia
Japanese trading house Mitsubishi Corp. decided Thursday to withdraw from the Vinh Tan 3 coal-fired power plant project in Vietnam amid growing international concern about climate change. Unlike Vung Ang 2, which has received extensive international criticism, Vinh Tan 3 is not a national project, and the start date for construction has already been delayed, making it easier to bow out. (See also: Mitsubishi pulls out of Vinh Tan 3 coal project in Vietnam - Reuters)

Youth4Climate Initiative launched in Vietnam - Vietnam+
The United Nations Development Programme in Vietnam, the Ministry of Natural Resources and Environment, and the Ho Chi Minh Communist Youth Union co-organised the Youth4Climate Conference, which marked the kick-off of the Youth4Climate Initiative in Vietnam. 

Draft national electricity development planning for 2021-2030, with a vision to 2045 is published - Lexology
By 2030, the total installed capacity of Vietnam’s electricity sources is predicted to be at 137.2 GW (of which coal-fired power: 27 percent, gas thermal power: 21 percent, hydroelectricity: 18%, renewable energy: 29 percent, imported energy about 4 percent, pumped hydroelectricity and other energy storage devices about 1 percent).

REGIONAL CONTEXT


Damming rivers is terrible for human rights, ecosystems and food security - Truthout
The Pak Mun Dam did not deliver the peaking energy service it was designed for, and it physically blocked a critical migration route for a range of fish species that migrated annually to breeding grounds upstream in the Mekong's Mun River Basin.

Rainforest Journalism Fund grant opportunities - Pulitzer Center
The Pulitzer Center invites journalists who are working on projects related to tropical rainforests to submit a proposal to the Rainforest Journalism Fund. There are two types of grants available: Grants for journalists reporting for major American and European news outlets on tropical rainforests in any part of the world and Grants for journalists based in and reporting for local and regional outlets in Southeast Asia.

We neglect Asia's freshwater fishes at our peril (opinion) - MENAFN/Asia Times
But there's no mystery about the cause of this crisis: It's down to us – from building on wetlands and floodplains, to our poorly planned hydropower dams to over-abstraction of water for agriculture, unsustainable fishing, pollution, invasive species, sand mining and climate change. 

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 5,000 key development professionals, government officials, business leaders and journalists. Submit stories, press releases, resources or feedback to: editor@mekongeye.com
 
Twitter
Facebook
Website
Copyright © 2021, Internews, All rights reserved. Please share this email.