Regional Round-up for Week of 10.11.19


EXSE FOCUS

Mekong dying: China wants more than just electricity from dams VN Express More Chinese dams means more political leverage. Negotiation with China is crucial to address growing energy demands in downstream countries in the Mekong. // For China, upstream Mekong River dams are more than electricity generators; they can deal with water shortages and are a political pressure tool. 

Dams destroy the Mekong and damage tourismTTR Weekly This article highlights the importance of clean energy sources, such as extensive Solar PV development in Vietnam, as well as a common interest between tourism and energy in protecting the region’s most precious asset. //  Every day thousands of tourists soak up life on the Mekong River, the seventh longest river in Asia. They take cruises, stay at boutique hotels or tuck into a grand lunch at a riverside restaurant.  The river is the most compelling reason they travel to a string of destinations in the six Mekong Region countries.

Threat to the Mekong River is Critical, Critics SayAsia Sentinel Dams throughout the region threaten to turn the once mighty river into a series of lakes. // It is starting to appear that nothing can save the 800,000 sq. km Mekong River basin, which provides vital sustenance for as many as 100 million people, from environmental depredation from dams all along the 4,350 km length of the mighty river that feeds it.

REGIONAL RELATIONS

Leaders’ Retreat: Singapore and Indonesia to renew US$10b currency pact for another year, step up economic cooperation The Straits Times Singapore and Indonesia announced the renewal of a US$10 billion currency pact, which will help support monetary and financial stability in the region.

ASEAN Officials Call for Cooperation on Haze Prevention Voice of America “If each country goes back and really tries to mitigate the issue, I am sure ASEAN will be able to commit” to [be] haze-free [by] 2020,” said Varawut Silpa-archa, Thailand’s Natural Resources and Environment Minister.

Vietnam’s dilemma with Chinese infrastructure investment: should it choose growth or security?South China Morning Post Various factors including a poor safety track record, territorial violations, and unease with BOT projects among the most obvious factors behind the cancellation of construction concessions. // Vietnam’s Ministry of Transport announced last month that it had cancelled an international tender invitation for eight sections of the North-South Expressway project, which will run almost the length of the country.

SUSTAINABILITY AND RESOURCE MANAGEMENT

Climate change comes for Mekong’s coffee The Third Pole Global warming’s effect on your daily cup of joe. // In villages around the city of Buon Ma Thuot, Vietnamese farmers are waiting for the monsoon that normally arrives in April or May. “The fruits look ripe outside, but the bean is crispy and small because there was not enough rain,” says 28-year-old Y Bel Eban from Krong village, pointing to some small green beans in his hand.

Singapore’s first virtual power plant to be developed by NTU Channel News Asia VPP is a digital platform that can perform advanced forecasting and optimization functions. Advances in smart grid technology can mitigate the effects of climate change by lowering waste and inefficiencies, and provide price signals to consumers to help them make more informed decisions. // A grant to develop Singapore’s first virtual power plant (VPP) has been awarded to Nanyang Technological University (NTU), said the Energy Market Authority (EMA) and Sembcorp on Tuesday.

Climate Change Risks to Farmers Call for Novel Policy Plans VOD Cambodia is considered to be one of the most vulnerable countries to climate change in the world. The nation’s vulnerability is a result of an economic dependency on climate-sensitive sectors such as agriculture, fisheries and construction. Floods, drought and extreme heat all facilitate a precarious future for Cambodia’s key sectors. 

Indonesia finds one-fifth of oil palm plantations are illegal The Straits Times Recent news of forest fires and their contribution to degrading air quality are in part attributable to slash-and-burn and illegal land clearing in these very same plantations. // Indonesia is trying to clamp down on illegal oil palm plantations by first identifying the perpetrators.


CHINA 

Duterte wants to work with Beijing in the South China Sea, but so far has little to show for itSouth China Morning Post A tough position: What to do when you welcome investment and arms trade, but face pressure from the public to respond to territorial challenges? // Philippine-China relations continued with positive momentum as President Rodrigo Duterte made his fifth visit to China in late August and early September.  

Renewed conflict in Myanmar slows China’s Belt and Road projectsNikkei Asian Review A recent decision by the Myanmar military, or Tatmadaw, not to extend a cease-fire aimed at ethnic armed organizations excluded from a nationwide peace agreement puts the country’s Belt and Road projects in further limbo. // China has faced challenges against projects in Myanmar due to both security concerns and pushback from local citizens. In order to gain more public support, the government has launched a charm offensive, especially along the route of a planned pipeline. After the cancellation of the Myitsone dam in 2011 due to local outrage, China is investing more time to gain popular support.  

SOUTHEAST ASIA

Air Quality App ‘Under Attack’ in Vietnam Amid Heavy Hanoi Smog The Irrawaddy The dramatic decrease in air quality in southeast Asia over the past year is an urgent issue. Rather than attempt to hide information from reaching public consciousness, campaigns should attempt to bring attention to health risks and the importance of personal behavior. // Independent online air quality index monitor AirVisual said on Monday it is under “coordinated attack” by someone attempting to discredit the company after its data showed Hanoi has at times recently topped its list of 90 major cities which suffer from air pollution.

Vietnam To Build Smart City For $4.2 Billion Near Hanoi Investine Investors looking for high returns can find them in hotels, condos, and resort-style developments, but this for-the-rich, by-the-rich trend diverts capital from more wide-impact projects. // Vietnamese hotel and golf resort giant BRG Group and Japan’s Sumitomo Corp, a trading company, struck a deal to jointly spend $4.2 billion to build a smart city close by Hanoi, the public learnt at the respective launch ceremony held on October 6.

Philippines freezes climate studies loan over scrutiny of Duterte drug war Mongabay Negotiations over a $36 million loan on climate change studies in the Philippines, one of the countries most at risk from the impacts of global warming, have bogged down as President Rodrigo Duterte lashes out against international scrutiny of his human rights record.

Second phase of Nam Ou dam cascade to be operational by year’s end Asia News Network Yet another dam in operation in Laos, and another 100 potential projects in the pipeline. Realistic alternatives are necessary to shift this trend toward a more sustainable future. // A project steering committee, involving central and local sectors and project developers, met in Luang Prabang province on Monday to reveal the project’s progress and discuss solutions to social and environmental issues.

Weekly Round-up compiled by Jean Joo and Alessandro Lee

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