Mekong: a river rising | The Guardian


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


Vietnamese plea to Thailand: Don’t divert the Mekong | The Nation Thailand

quote1[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

Bolaven Plateau waterfalls, Laos |

Pon is keen to tell me how lucky I am. “In the wet season, you cannot walk on this track,” he says. “But now, it is safe – we can go to the waterfall.”

This is the grand finale, the cherry-on-top reward at the end of a day’s trek. It’s a reward that feels greedy, however. The walk across the Bolaven Plateau in southern Laos begins with purposeful striding through the Arabica coffee plantations that mean relative prosperity for the local bean-growing co-operatives. This leads to the rocky, semi-barren landscape of the Dan Sin Say plateau, where cows mooch around with a flabby lack of menace, over stepping stones and down to the banana-fringed pool at the bottom of the Tad Cham Pi falls.

In a sweaty, sticky heat, this feels just about right. But we must press on. Tad Cham Pi is just a baby. If I want something truly impressive, then forging ahead to Tad Fane is imperative.

We get to the lookout; the twin falls daintily tumbling through the forest into a deep chasm are indeed impressive. But we can get closer.

via | Blogs – Bolaven Plateau.

A US Pilot over South Vietnam – CBS News

Thomas Patrick Laffey flew a “Bird Dog” in Vietnam, a Cessna 0-1 that was famously low and slow. Laffey’s weapon was his AR-15 rifle, which he shot out the window. He didn’t even carry a parachute.

“If we did get hit in the engine or anything like that, we would have to take the airplane down and try to find a safe place to land,” he said.

He was a forward air controller, whose job it was to try to make sure that bombs or napalm did not land on civilians or on American or South Vietnamese troops. He was in charge of clearing all targets, directing the fighters in with white phosphorus rockets, he said.

It was dangerous job, especially over the Mekong Delta, where there was little cover.

“Of course, the bad guys knew that if they shot us down, then the fighters couldn’t release anything because there was no one there to clear them in,” he said.

Fighting in South Vietnam — in a Cessna – CBS News.

Preah Vihear: A tense wait and a school in the firing line

BAN PHUM SAROL school in eastern Thailand has an unusual display of pieces of broken metal in the foyer. At first glance they look a bit like machine parts and water pipes. But a closer look reveals what they are: melted and twisted fragments of shrapnel, the fins from mortar bombs, and the casings of rockets fired from Katyusha launchers.

In 2011, this primary school a few kilometers north of the disputed Preah Vihear temple was on the front line of an escalating border conflict between Thai and Cambodian troops that claimed dozens of lives.

The first warning came when a mortar round struck the playground in the late afternoon. Fortunately the children had already gone home, although some teachers were still at work. Over the next few hours, the school, nearby homes, and streets of the village came under heavier fire from Cambodian artillery.

via Preah Vihear: A tense wait and a school in the firing line

WWF Finds Southeast Asia’s Hooved Species Are Threatened with Extinction

Gaur in Kuiburi National Park, Thailand - WWF-ThailandThe Greater Mekong region’s unique and diverse ungulate community – animals with hooves – are close to disappearing unless governments in the region intensify efforts to restore their numbers and protect their habitats, according to a new World Wildlife Fund (WWF) report, Rumble in the Jungle.

The 13 ungulates profiled in the report vary from a dog-sized deer to culturally significant wild cattle. Some have been seen so seldom that they have taken on an almost mythical status. Although, an unparalleled four new species have been discovered in the last 20 years, their futures are uncertain and for some it is already too late, the report notes.

“One of the most spectacular collections of ungulates in the world is under relentless threat from illegal hunting, and it is critical that governments in the region respond by boosting protection efforts if we’re to have any hope of saving many of these species,” said Barney Long, Director, Species Conservation Program, WWF.

One of the species, the saola, is close to disappearing from the region. Its 1992 discovery was described as one of the most spectacular zoological discoveries of the 20th century. The difficulty in detecting the secretive animal has prevented making a precise population estimate, but numbers could be in the tens to the low hundreds.

A number of other species could face a similar fate if action is not taken to protect them, including the leaf muntjac – so small a single large tree leaf can wrap its body; and the banteng, considered to be one of the most graceful of all wild cattle species. Two species endemic to the Greater Mekong region, the kouprey and Schomburgk’s deer, became globally extinct in the 20th century.

“While illegal hunting is fast eroding the populations of these species, they can still be saved if governments put biodiversity protection and wildlife crime prevention at the forefront of their decision-making,” Long said.

via WWF Finds Southeast Asia’s Hooved Species Are Threatened with Extinction – MarketWatch.