The fate of 70 million people rests on what happens to the Mekong river. With world leaders meeting in Paris for crucial UN climate talks, John Vidal journeys down south-east Asia’s vast waterway – a place that encapsulates some of the dilemmas they must solve. He meets people struggling to deal with the impacts of climate change as well as the ecological havoc created by giant dams, deforestation, coastal erosion and fast-growing cities
John Vidal’s first stop along the river is the tiny country of Laos. Fifty years ago, Laos began to build a series of giant dams. It was the first chance the country had to generate the electricity and money needed to emerge from deep poverty. But is this demand for clean energy creating ecological and human havoc?
Read more at Mekong: a river rising / The Guardian
[Thailand’s] Prime Minister Prayut Chan-o-cha voiced plans to use water from the Mekong and Salween rivers to fill dams that have run low because of drought and poor water management. But the PM’s remarks have caused shockwaves in the [Vietnamese] Mekong Delta, which would be directly affected if such a project was to go ahead.
Nguyen Huu Thien, a freelance expert on wetland ecology and natural resource conservation, criticised the idea. He said taking a large amount of water out of an international river was like sucking the blood from a body and would surely hurt the livelihood of people downstream.
“I just heard of Thailand’s idea to divert water from the Mekong River. I still don’t have much information about the plan but I strongly oppose this idea, as a change in the amount of water in the river would definitely have an impact on the people who live in the Mekong Delta and who rely on the river,” Thien said.
From: Vietnamese plea to Thailand: Don’t divert the Mekong | The Nation Thailand
From: Northeasterners Mark 50th Anniversary of the Communist Armed Struggle | The Isaan Record
2015 AUGUST 13 NAKHON PHANOM – Fifty years ago, Comrade Tang fought for communism in the first violent clash between communist fighters and Thai security forces. Last week, at 88 years old, he marked the anniversary with a call for democracy.
In the early morning on August 7, villagers and local politicians flocked through the gate of Nabua’s village temple to commemorate the incident that came to be known as the “Day the First Gunshot Rang Out.” Against the military’s demands, the crowd of 250 not only celebrated the former communists, but also rallied for freedom from the current military rule in Thailand.
On August 7, 1965 Nabua, an ethnic Phu Thai village, made headlines all across Indochina when Thailand’s first-ever physical confrontation between communist fighters and Thai security forces occurred. According to eyewitnesses, eight communist villagers were involved, one of whom was shot dead during the incident after the town was surrounded by state forces.
Japan announced a new three-year Mekong aid plan Saturday at the Japan-Mekong Summit to promote stability and growth in the region, and counter China’s growing political and economic clout in Southeast Asia.
“Japan will commit about ¥750 billion in official development assistance over the next three years,” Prime Minister Shinzo Abe said at a news conference attended by the leaders of the five countries that make up the area. “Japan is a partner for the development of the Mekong region, which has future potential.”
The five Mekong nations are Cambodia, Laos, Myanmar, Thailand and Vietnam.
via Japan, Mekong ink new ¥750 billion aid deal | The Japan Times.
Japan, Thailand and Myanmar have signed a memorandum of intent for the joint development of the long-delayed Dawei project in southeastern Myanmar.
The document was signed on the sidelines of the Japan-Mekong Summit in Tokyo.
Thai Prime Minister Prayuth Chan-Ocha said the project will become a new distribution hub for the world.
“The cooperation between the three countries on Dawei will be the world’s new economic gate linking the Pacific and the Indian Ocean. This will be major opportunity for Japan’s private sectors with Thailand’s support as manufacturing base, as a connecting point and as a product distribution centre to the region. With this, we reaffirm that Thailand will do its best to look after Japanese investment’s best interests.”
The project has been stalled for years largely due to the Italian Thai Development (ITD), which had failed to secure private investment and agree on a power source for the complex.
via Japan,Thailand and Myanmar Sign Memorandum of Intent for Dawei Project.
It is the middle of winter in the Mekong region; however, throughout December, floods have brought havoc to communities along the Mekong River. From the Chiang Saen District, Chiang Rai province in Northern Thailand downward, the water level in the Mekong has risen rapidly. The flooding was most intense along the Thailand-Lao border from the Golden Triangle toward Khong Chiam, Ubonratchathani. It is unprecedented to experience such flooding in the Mekong during wintertime.
Flooding was particularly bad in Chiang Saen District around Sob Kok, the delta plain in the Kok River where it meets the Mekong. In just one morning, the flooding damaged a large plantation owned by local villagers. Water from the Mekong River suddenly spilled over the banks causing levels of water tens of centimeters high to flood the area; corn, tobacco, bean and other vegetables vanished in the blink of an eye.
On December 19, The Vientiane Times reported that construction on the Xayaburi Dam was halted as the Mekong River rose, flooding the site. The Xayaburi Power Company – owner of the US$3.5 billion hydropower project – announced that “work on the dam’s spillway had to stop when water flowed over the temporary barriers and lower parts of the area were submerged.”
via Mekong Floods: The Dampening of the Wintery Suffering | International Rivers.