China Should Set Good Example on the Mekong River – Economic Observer Online – In-depth and Independent

What do Chinese think of when they hear “Mekong River?” I asked my friends and their answers pointed to the brutal killing of Chinese sailors in 2011 by drug kingpin Naw Kham, who was sentenced to death by a Chinese court.

For them, the Mekong River – known as Lancang Jiang (Turbulent River) in Chinese – appears to be an outlaw territory inhibited by pirates and drug kingpins.

But I probed further, asking about the dams that are planned in the upper reaches of the Mekong in Yunnan Province. ”It is small and not popular compared to the Yangtze and Yellow rivers,” my friend said. She certainly knew about the notorious Three Gorges Dam, but admitted she didn’t know much about the controversial Mekong River dam projects.

The public has become more skeptical and resistant to dam construction in recent years, especially since the State Council admitted major geological, human and ecological problems resulting from the Three Gorges Dam. But even though the Mekong River originates in the Tibetan Plateau – just like the Yangtze and Yellow Rivers – the controversial dam projects there still aren’t on the radar for most Chinese.

In 1995, the Mekong River Commission (MRC) was established by Laos, Cambodia, Thailand and Vietnam to promote sustainable use of the river. China, along with Myanmar, is a “dialogue partner,” but not a member.

Indeed, China probably isn’t anxious to get too involved with the MRC. In 2002, China was blamed for damaging the Mekong’s pristine ecology when it collaborated with Thailand to dynamite shoals, rapids and reefs in order to free up navigation routes for large cargo ships.

via China Should Set Good Example on the Mekong River – Economic Observer Online – In-depth and Independent.


A River Trickles Through It: Laos’ Mekong Dam Draws Ire From Downstream Neighbors And Environmentalists

Laos’ construction of a hydropower dam on the Mekong River has angered its downstream neighbors and raised concerns about the project’s social and environmental impacts.

Laos’ Xayaburi Dam project on the Mekong River could have a negative impact on communities downstream that depend on it for fishing and agriculture.

Construction of the $3.5 billion Xayaburi Dam began last November. It is the first of 11 projects the Laotian government plans to build along the lower portion of the river, which passes through Cambodia, Vietnam and Thailand.

Laos has drawn criticism from its Southeast Asian neighbors for beginning construction on the Xayaburi Dam without completing the consultation process through the Mekong River Commission, or MRC, an inter-governmental agency comprised of representatives from the four countries that manages the usage and development of the river.

Vietnam’s Deputy Minister of Natural Resources and Environment Hong Ha Tran spoke Wednesday at an MRC Council Meeting in Luang Prabang, Laos, and he questioned the wisdom of beginning the Xayaburi project before a thorough analysis of its impact was completed.

via A River Trickles Through It: Laos’ Mekong Dam Draws Ire From Downstream Neighbors And Environmentalists.

UNWTO endorses ecotourism : TTR Weekly

MADRID, 4 January 2013: A landmark resolution recognising ecotourism as key in the fight against poverty, the protection of the environment and the promotion of sustainable development has been adopted by the United Nations General Assembly.

In a significant acknowledgment of tourism as a tool for promoting sustainable development, the UN General Assembly unanimously adopted a resolution stressing ecotourism’s role in the fight against poverty and protection of the environment.

The resolution, entitled, “Promotion of ecotourism for poverty eradication and environment protection”, calls on UN member states to adopt policies that promote ecotourism highlighting its “positive impact on income generation, job creation and education, and thus on the fight against poverty and hunger”.

via UNWTO endorses ecotourism : TTR Weekly.

Joint Press Statement between President Barack Obama and Prime Minister Yingluck Shinawatra

The two leaders acknowledged the importance of forging regional cooperation based on mutual respect, and of resolving disputes peacefully and in accordance with the universally recognized principles of international law. The two leaders noted progress achieved on a dialogue towards a Code of Conduct on the South China Sea under Thailand’s coordinatorship of the ASEAN-China framework. The Prime Minister commended the United States’ substantive engagement in the Lower Mekong Initiative, while the President reiterated continued U.S. support for the development of the Mekong sub-region, and in particular emphasized support for women’s empowerment as a pillar of the Lower Mekong Initiative. The two leaders welcomed the signing of the Memorandum of Understanding on Trilateral Cooperation between the United States Agency for International Development and the Thailand International Development Cooperation Agency to support human resources development in countries in the region.

via Joint Press Statement between President Barack Obama and Prime Minister Yingluck Shinawatra.

ADB urges kick-start to Dawei project | Bangkok Post: business

Thailand, other Southeast Asian nations and countries that have established a regional presence should take steps to kick-start development of the Dawei megaproject, says the Asian Development Bank (ADB).

While the Thilawa and Kyauk Phyu special economic zones are ready to take off with Japan and China as the key sponsors, it is difficult for Dawei to “really gets off the ground”, given that the project is so large, said Craig Steffensen, country director of the ADB’s Thailand resident mission.

He said the ADB would consider the possibility of granting financial support to Dawei, but the project’s developer has not submitted a proposal and feasibility study to the bank.

Italian-Thai Development, Thailand’s largest contractor by market value, has been granted a concession to develop the Dawei special economic zone and a deep-sea port in eastern Myanmar.

Cost of the project is estimated at US$50 billion. That forecast includes $8.5 billion for the first phase of infrastructure.

In addition to the seaport, Mr Steffensen said roads and railway links, as well as power transmission lines, are critical to attracting investors to Dawei by making their shipment costs more competitive.

The cost of moving a container between Dawei and Laem Chabang is about $1,000 compared with only $10 per container from Laem Chabang to Europe, said Mr Steffensen, adding that rail link from Dawei port to Thailand will help to lower shipment costs.

via ADB urges kick-start to Dawei project | Bangkok Post: business.

ASEAN wants India to play a more pro-active role – The Times of India

India, many ASEAN analysts here believe, should openly reiterate its position on an issue which will deeply affect New Delhi’s own future. There is a sense that India is piggybacking on the US. Even Cambodia, which is believed to be close to China, is crying out for an alternative partner. The India linkages here are for all to see — ranging from Ganesha idols to the Mekong river.

“Connectivity” is India’s mantra but its China that’s putting stakes on the ground. China is doing more on the Mekong river and Beijing is building the Kunming-Singapore links, while India’s trilateral highway to Thailand through Myanmar will take many more years to realize. The wasted opportunities are stacking up.

via ASEAN wants India to play a more pro-active role – The Times of India.