Regional Round-Up for Week of 9.27.19

EXSE FOCUS

Climate change adds a new dimension to Laos’ UXO challengesASEAN Today Unpredictable weather patterns pose new UXO threats to Laotians. To meet these threats, international governments will have to make changes in the current aid distribution model. // Floods have become more common in Laos with southern provinces still recovering from the recent floods. In the long road to recovery, Laotians have to deal with another threat as UXOs become dislodged and are carried to new locations, some of which may be previously cleared or even to populous areas. 

Vietnam says ‘urgent measures’ are needed to combat Mekong Delta erosionReuters Six provinces in Vietnam’s Mekong Delta region have been scrambling to battle the severe erosion of the sprawling river and coastal network, with some areas now requiring “urgent measures”, state media said on Tuesday. // As a downstream country on the Mekong, Vietnam faces the brunt of the consequences as the Mekong River changes. As more upstream dams get built and sand mining continues unregulated, Vietnam receives less sediment flow. Also erosion is a positive cycle in that erosion leads to more erosion. The capacity and water flow of the eroded Mekong increases leading to even more erosion. This could increase risk and cause the collapse of villages, farms, key infrastructure, and wildlife habitats. 

Mekong River Commission Defends Seven-Week Silence on Lao Dam Project SubmissionRadio Free Asia The Mekong River Commission (MRC) Wednesday defended its decision to wait nearly seven weeks before officially notifying the public that Laos began a preliminary procedure for the construction of a large dam that would be its fifth on the Mekong river. // Despite environmental concerns and experts pointing to the consequences of the previously built Xayaburi dam, Laos has given the go ahead to the controversial Luangprabang dam. Although the project is still undergoing the consultation process, Laos is still the final decision maker and situations like these highlight the MRC’s lack of enforcement power.

REGIONAL RELATIONS

Vietnam’s CMC strives for IoT with Samsung’s commitment – Nikkei Asian Review South Korean investment in Vietnam’s retail, food, banking, and electronics conglomerates on the rise. // A unit of South Korea’s Samsung Electronics has bought a 30% stake for more than $40 million in Vietnam’s second-largest IT company CMC Corp. which hopes to use most of those proceeds to focus on developing the “internet of things” and artificial intelligence technologies. 

Asia-Pacific’s new climate reality: Daily China contributorThe Straits Times Many recognize the economic and social benefits of investing early in our future, but can institutions mobilize quickly enough amid competing priorities to save us from the worst? //On Monday (Sept 23), world leaders gathered at the United Nations in New York for the Climate Action Summit to increase ambition and accelerate action in the face of a mounting climate emergency.

Lambasting China over its emissions might impress the US but it could be costly for Australia The Guardian Recognizing the beam in our eye before pointing out the speck in our brother’s is a refreshing tone to take. Nevertheless, this article points out that China also exports its carbon-heavy projects abroad through BRI investments, making the true picture of sustainable development a bit more complex. // Visiting the United States, Australia’s prime minister demanded of China “participation in addressing important global environmental challenges” in light of its “new status and responsibilities”.

SUSTAINABILITY AND RESOURCE MANAGEMENT

A Blood Red Sky: Fires Leave a Million Indonesians GaspingNew York Times 2 million acres destroyed — an alarming development parallel with Amazon fires. // Nearly 2,000 wildfires are burning across Indonesia, turning the sky blood red over central Sumatra and creating dense clouds of smoke that have caused respiratory problems for nearly a million people.

Thai NGOs Speak Out Against Proposed Dam in LaosRadio Free Asia With Xayaburi having proceeded with impunity despite opposition from downstream communities, the Luangprabang Hydropower Project comes under scrutiny for many of the same reasons as Xayaburi. Each dam compounds pressures on people and wildlife and erodes the very source of livelihood for much of the region. // A new dam planned for construction on the Mekong River in Laos is causing great concern for environmental NGOs from Thailand, who say Laos’ fifth big dam on the river will have adverse effects on fish and people in the region.

Cambodia’s lifeline threatened as Mekong recedes to historic lowAl Jazeera As world leaders meet in New York from Monday to discuss the global challenge of climate change, thousands of kilometres away people in Cambodia are grappling with dramatic changes to the country’s ecosystem, including the lowest water levels in the crucially-important Mekong River ever recorded. // Good overview of the consequences that the decline of the Mekong can have on Cambodia. 

Mekong Delta agriculture adapts to climate changeVietnam Plus Despite forward-thinking advances in agricultural practices, scale of sustainable model implementation lacks coordination and quick response to rapidly changing climate conditions. // The Mekong Delta has restructured agriculture towards climate-change adaptation and market demand by establishing specialised farming areas for its key agricultural products, and by growing other crops on ineffective rice fields or rotating rice with other crops on the same field. 

Oil Spilling Into the Java SeaThe Diplomat A fleet of 44 vessels has not been enough to contain a spill reaching as far as 60 km from leak point. // In mid-July, one of three oil wells owned by the Indonesian state-owned oil and gas company, PT Pertamina, under an offshore platform in the North West Java (ONWJ) Offshore Block began leaking into the sea north of Karawang City, West Java.

CHINA

China storms past US and Japan to take the lead in wind and solar power – Nikkei Asian Review To give perspective, China’s Envision Group alone manages a network of 100 MW equal to all of Japan’s renewable capacity. // China has come to dominate worldwide solar and wind energy generation, in terms of both its own capacity and its companies’ share of global markets, leaving previous powerhouses — particularly the U.S. and Japan — to play catch-up.

Belt and Road countries will make or break the Paris AgreementThe Third Pole Developing countries are forecast to emit more carbon dioxide than developed ones by mid-century. Chinese investment is projected to speed up that process in key countries linked to the Belt and Road Initiative (BRI), China’s global infrastructure plan, according to a new report. // Despite Chinese investments in renewable energies, they must make sure that they are being implemented in their international projects as well if they really seek to be a global leader in sustainable practices. BRI projects can determine the energy trajectory of countries for a long period of time.  

Sihanoukville’s big gamble: the sleepy beach town in Cambodia that bet its future on Chinese moneySouth China Morning Post Close relations between the late king Norodom Sihanouk and Mao Zedong paved the road for dramatic business and infrastructure investment from China. Today, rent spikes, crime, environmental degradation, and lethal safety violations have angered locals. Law enforcement must be enforced to prevent further degradation. // Sihanoukville may be more than 3,500km away from Beijing, but it feels more like a Chinese city than a sleepy beach town in Cambodia.

Slower, smaller, and cheaper: the reality of the China-Myanmar Economic CorridorFrontier Myanmar Article suggests that project implementation has not compared to the scale reached in the China-Pakistan economic corridor, nor has it proceeded smoothly. More detail is needed on whether capital flows have taken place and proportion of investments by sector and over time. // Despite perceptions that it will bring a rush of Chinese financing for massive infrastructure projects, implementation of the China Myanmar Economic Corridor has so far been relatively cautious.

SOUTHEAST ASIA

Slavery on the high seas: how Southeast Asia can end forced labour on fishing boatsSouth China Morning Post At the production level of much of the seafood industry, input costs are artificially low, failing to account for the high human costs incurred by migrants and other vulnerable people trapped and enslaved abroad. // Slave labour renders business models in the Southeast Asian seafood sector not only unsustainable but dangerous. An industry-wide no-slavery policy, greater business accountability and better rehabilitation of rescued workers show the way forward.

Myanmar Energy Analysts Alarmed at Floating Power Plant Plans for YangonThe Irrawaddy What is cheap today might become expensive tomorrow: short sighted investment in “emergency” power capacity leaves technocrats concerned about sustainability as with transparency. // Industry experts have criticized the Ministry of Electricity and Energy’s plan to produce electricity with gas and liquefied natural gas (LNG) via a floating power plant to meet the rising demand in Yangon by mid-2020. 

Govt speeding up megaprojectsBangkok Post Issues with land appropriation besetting major transport projects such as the Bang Yai  – Kanchanaburi motorway to be given special attention and priority by the Prime Minister. //The government is expediting the Transport Ministry’s mega-investment projects worth almost 2 trillion baht to stimulate financial flows and deal with anticipated volatility in the global economy next year.

Murders of land activists spike under Philippines’ Duterte: WatchdogThe Straits Times Elected on a crime-fighting platform, President Duterte’s campaign against drugs as often caught political obstacles and activists between his cross hairs, with deaths estimated between 5,500 and 20,000 since his election. // Murders of environmental activists and land defenders in the Philippines have risen sharply under President Rodrigo Duterte, an international rights watchdog said on Tuesday (Sept 24), alleging his speeches and policies have “emboldened” the killers.

Regional Round-Up compiled by Jean Joo and Alex Lee

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