Regional Round-up for Week of 12.13.19

EXSE FOCUS

Watered Down: How do big hydropower companies adhere to social and environmental policies and best practices? International Rivers Healthy rivers are critical in sustaining communities and ecosystems. Yet our rivers around the world are under threat. As many as 3,700 new dams have either been proposed or are already under construction. Despite the enormous diversity in size, scale and geography of new dams being built, a relatively small number of corporations are responsible for their construction. // Of the seven case study projects, three are Mekong River dams. It is important to recognize that in addition to China, Thailand also plays a  pivotal role in foreign dam construction especially in Cambodia and Laos.

Mekong River’s aquamarine hue likely to occur elsewhere due to low flows, bringing possible risksMekong River Commission The extremely low flow, slow drop in the river sediments, and presence of algae on the sand and bedrock river bottom are some of the possible causes why the Mekong River has recently acquired an aquamarine color, says the Mekong River Commission. This phenomenon may spread to other parts of the River where low flows occur. 

We’re in denial mode as the Mekong Delta goes under VN Express The Mekong Delta is disappearing right in front of our eyes, but we think we can save it with empty promises.

REGIONAL RELATIONS

ASEAN anchor to Asian trade policy strategyEast Asia Forum As the global trade regime threatens to unravel under the Trump administration’s assault on the WTO dispute settlement disciplines and it’s tearing up the rules in its trade war with China, ASEAN — the motley Southeast Asian grouping that includes Indonesia, Singapore, Malaysia, Thailand, Myanmar, Vietnam, Cambodia, Laos, Brunei and the Philippines — would seem the most unlikely bloc to spring effectively to its defence.

Chinese Foreign Minister Visits Myanmar to Speed Up Belt and Road Projects The Irrawaddy A Chinese foreign affairs chief has pushed the Myanmar government to speed up construction of projects within the China-Myanmar Economic Corridor, which is a part of the giant Belt and Road Initiative (BRI).

France’s Indo-Pacific strategy: inclusive and principled East Asia Forum France’s recently launched Indo-Pacific strategy has attracted many critical and sarcastic comments. Some Western analysts picture France’s move as a desperate (and vain) attempt to regain its past grandeur and most of them consider the strategy doomed to fail, while Chinese commentators criticise France for following in US footsteps to contain China’s rise.

SUSTAINABILITY AND RESOURCE MANAGEMENT

Size of Earth’s Plastic Problems Comes Into ViewVoice of America Every year vast amounts of bottles and bags make their way into the world’s oceans….leaving scientists searching for solutions to purge the planet’s plastic problems.  

In Indonesia, a tourism village holds off a nickel mine — for now Mongabay Residents of the island of Kabaena in Indonesia registered their home as a “tourism village” seven years ago in a bid to ward off a planned nickel mine. They say they fear that mining activity will disrupt their water sources and despoil the forests that they hold sacred.

Thai rice farmers shun ‘big agribusiness’ and fight climate change Channel News Asia Battling drought, debt and ailments blamed on pesticides, rice farmers in northern Thailand have turned to eco-friendly growing methods despite powerful agribusiness interests in a country that is one of the top exporters of the grain in the world.

Indonesia to revive idle shrimp farms to boost fisheries and save mangroves Mongabay Indonesia plans to restore more than 300,000 hectares (741,300 acres) of idle shrimp-farming ponds to boost its fisheries and reduce deforestation of the country’s mangrove ecosystems, according to a top official.

CHINA

China combines three oil pipeline networks into a single operator in much-anticipated merger to improve efficiency in state sectorSouth China Morning Post The National Oil and Gas Pipeline Network Group would operate the pipelines owned by CNOOC limited, China National Petroleum Corp and Sinopec Group. The merged company would own 500 billion yuan in combined assets, and be responsible for managing a pipeline network that’s expected to expand by 80 per cent to 240,000 kilometres buy 2025. 

Wall Street set to drop after weak Chinese data; Tariff deadline looms Reuters U.S. stock index futures edged lower on Monday as weak data from China brought back fears of a slowdown in the world’s second-biggest economy, while investors awaited more news on trade ahead of a tariff deadline later in the week.

Can Laos profit from China rail link despite being US$1.5 billion in debt? South China Morning Post An ambitious high-speed electrified railway track running through Laos and connecting Kunming in China with northeastern Thailand is now 78 per cent complete, according to reports.

SOUTHEAST ASIA

Vietnam Wonders if it Should Outlaw Loan SharksVoice of America Critics worry that desperate borrowers have resorted to loan sharks, who could use illegal means to collect debt. Others say people with poor borrowing histories still need access to loans, especially when turned away by traditional banks. 

San Miguel’s $15bn airport: Game changer or white elephant? Nikkei Asian Review Philippines — Amid the sodden mangroves of Taliptip, a sleepy fishing village 30 kilometers north of Manila, the San Miguel Corporation is planning to build the world’s second-largest airport.

No End to Indonesia’s Massive Environmental Disaster Asia Sentinel The Indonesian community of Sidoardjo in East Java has become a macabre international tourism destination, a wasted tableau of stinking mud peopled by dozens of sculptures in human form representing villagers who fled 13 years ago when a natural gas well blew out and kicked off what has become Indonesia’s worst-ever environmental disaster, one expected to continue unabated for the next 25 to 30 years. 

Myanmar Solar: Lots of Potential, But a Cloudy Outlook for Solar Energy Development and Growth Solar Magazine Solar energy is just beginning to gain some traction in Myanmar, a country that has been gradually opening up its economy and society to the world since 2011. Demand for energy has been growing fast, in parallel with the ASEAN (Association of Southeast Asian Nations) member’s economy, and solar energy is competing against a variety of conventional, as well as alternative low- or zero-carbon, energy resources for its share of Myanmar’s energy mix.

This week’s weekly round-up was curated by Jean Joo and Alessandro Lee, Program Interns

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