News

Save the Mekong Coalition Calls on ASEAN Leaders: Cancel the Xayaburi Dam

As ASEAN leaders meet for the 18th ASEAN Summit in Jakarta, Indonesia, the Save the Mekong coalition calls on ASEAN leaders to act immediately to cancel the Xayaburi Dam in Lao PDR.

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Vietnamese Opposition Could Sway Lao Hydropower Plans

Vietnamese officials are criticizing the Lao government’s controversial plan to build a dam on the Mekong River. Analysts say opposition from Vietnam and other lower Mekong countries could force Laos to scale back its hydropower ambitions.

The $3.5 billion Xayaburi hydropower dam is the first of 12 dams planned for the lower Mekong. A Thai developer would build the dam, and Thailand would buy most of the 1,260 megawatts of electricity the dam would generate.

Lao officials say the proposed Mekong dams would cut poverty and bolster their land-locked country’s economy.

A Western construction worker surveys ongoing work to build a power plant for
the Nam Theun 2 dam, south of Vientiane, Laos. Photo: Reuters.

Criticism

But Vietnamese officials say the dam would jeopardize water supplies and threaten fishing on the river’s downstream reaches. Their recent comments echoed warnings by environmentalists that the Mekong dams would damage the environment and threaten the livelihoods of people who live near the river.

Analysts say political pressure from Vietnam and its lower Mekong neighbors – Thailand and Cambodia – could force Laos to delay or modify its plans to harness the Mekong’s flow.

Philip Hirsch, a professor of human ecology at the University of Sydney, told VOA that of the lower Mekong countries, Vietnam has so far been most publicly critical of Laos’ hydropower ambitions.

“The interesting question, which I think is very difficult for anyone to answer, is how these two countries, Vietnam and Laos – which are so close – are going to extricate themselves from what at the moment seem to be diametrically opposite positions on the Xayabouri dam,” Hirsch said.

Vietnam and Laos are both one-party states and Hirsch says Vietnam typically influences Lao policy “behind closed doors.” But Hirsch says recent criticism of the Xayabouri proposal by high-ranking Vietnamese officials has been “very public.”

All four lower Mekong countries will be closely watching a recommendation on the dam expected this month from the Joint Committee of the Mekong River Commission, an advisory body formed in 1995 to promote sustainable development along the 4,900-kilometer Mekong system.

Influence

But Hirsch points out that the MRC has no power to force Laos to abandon its plans for the Xayabouri and other Mekong dams.

“The MRC is not a regulatory institution,” Hirsch added. “It’s not a strong agency in that way, it’s one which has always worked on the basis of trying to achieve consensus, and if we’re looking for regulation from the MRC, I think we’re looking in the wrong direction.”

Hirsch says Thailand has vowed to stay neutral in MRC negotiations, which puts the onus on Vietnamese and Cambodian officials to address the Xayabouri dam proposal in discussions with their Lao counterparts.

Trinh Le Nguyen is executive director of the Vietnamese NGO PanNature. He tells VOA that although Laos has final say over the Xayabouri and other Mekong dams, Vietnam may pressure Laos by threatening to not invest in future Mekong hydropower projects.

“Vietnam can decide not to invest or buy anything from [Laos],” Trinh Le Nguyen said. “It’s one of the ways they can have some power.”

In October, an independent study commissioned by the MRC recommended that lower Mekong countries delay decisions on hydropower projects for 10 years, warning that Mekong hydropower dams would exacerbate food insecurity and cause “serious and irreversible” environmental effects.

China, which borders northern Laos, already operates four dams on the upper reaches of the Mekong River.

Source: Voice of America

Villages urged to prevent illegal logging

The legality of timber and wood products should be promoted to curb illegal logging, according to a meeting in Ha Noi yesterday. The conference, held by the Forest Legality Alliance (FLA) and People and Nature Reconciliation (PanNature), also called for concerned agencies, including the Government, businesses and households, to ensure that only legal timber is used.

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Localising conservation in Vietnam

PanNature is trying to use wide experience, varied skills and contagious motivation to help lead a community-based movement to preserve Vietnam’s natural heritage and promote sustainable development nationwide. We interviewed Trinh Le Nguyen (TLN), the founder of the organisation on the occasion of 6th year since its establishment.

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The Battle Over the Mekong

Chinese dams threaten one of the world’s most biodiverse rivers, critics say. It’s not just environmentalists who are worried.

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Revised Law to Better Preserve Minerals

The management of the exploration and exploitation of natural resources should be strengthened to preserve valuable assets for younger generations, according to attendants of a conference in Ha Noi last week.

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Mekong conundrum: does dammed mean damned?

The roaring currents of the Mekong have long enchanted travellers, inspired explorers and sustained about 65 million people living off the world’s largest freshwater fisheries. But environmentalists warn that the “Amazon of Asia” – the river with the second-richest biodiversity in the world – is under dire threat from hydropower dams, including the latest to be proposed: the Xayaburi dam in Laos.

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Save the Mekong Call: Cancel Xayaboury Dam on Mekong River’s mainstream, Halt MRC PNPCA Process

In a letter addressed to Mr. Jeremy Bird, CEO of the Mekong River Commission (MRC), the Save the Mekong coalition calls on the Mekong region’s governments to cancel the Xayabouri Dam planned for the Mekong River’s mainstream in Xayabouri Province, Lao PDR, …

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PanNature’s Nguyen Thi Hai Van Joins the Capacity Advancement Fellowship at Revenue Watch Institute

The Revenue Watch Institute has introduced its new Capacity Advancement Fellows for 2010-11: Maria del Carmen Pantoja Mendez of Grupo FARO in Ecuador, and Nguyen Thi Hai Van of People and Nature Reconciliation (PanNature) in Vietnam.

The Capacity Advancement (CA) Fellowship, currently in its third year, aims to build the capacity of mid-career civil society activists by deepening their understanding of the extractive industry and broadening their skills to connect local, national and international campaigns. After training and research in New York City, fellows are expected to return to their organizations and coalitions with specific knowledge and skills that will enable them to better meet current challenges and develop broader training, advocacy and research agendas. The program targets key individuals to develop a cadre of future leaders for extractive industry transparency campaigns.

RWI CA Fellows Nguyen Thi Hai Van and Maria del Carmen Pantoja Mendez.

During this year-long program, fellows investigate international best practices for extractive resource management and the current role of local and international civil society organizations in promoting change. During the first half of the program, from August 2010 through January 2011, CA Fellows will work from Revenue Watch’s offices in New York and take part in day-to-day RWI project activities, related classes at leading academic institutions, and donor and civil society networking events. Fellows will also receive hands-on support for original research and personal mentorship from an industry expert. After they return to their home organizations, CA Fellows will implement a project based on their research and learning experience in New York, with the continued support of their program mentor. Revenue Watch will publish a short report from each fellow online at the culmination of the term, highlighting what was learned.

Maria del Carmen Pantoja Mendez is a graduate of the Pontifical Catholic University of Ecuador in Economics and received a Revenue Watch fellowship to participate in the “Specialization in Extractive Industries: Monitoring and Sustainable Development” program at the Pontifical Catholic University of Peru. She has worked on analyzing public policy with a focus on fiscal, economic and social issues in government and private organizations. Since July 2009 she has worked as an investigator in the Public Finance Department of Grupo FARO in Ecuador. During these years she principally collaborated as a researcher, monitoring oil revenues, networking and doing advocacy. Her work includes the analysis of gender policy, local government transparency and social investment with the collaboration of organizations as UNIFEM, UNICEF, GTZ and FUNDAR.

Before Grupo FARO Maria conducted research for the Quito Chamber of Commerce and was a member of the Analytic Research Advisor Group of the Ecuadorian Statistical Institute. She is an activist who seeks to strengthen public policy through better economic planning and greater social equality. She aspires to become a policy maker in the future. Her goal through the CA fellowship training is to learn more about the administration of fiscal instruments such as funds as well as to gain a better understanding of contract issues that can be applied to Ecuadorian extractive sector restructuring.

Nguyen Thi Hai Van received a Bachelor of Environmental Science with honors from Hanoi National University, College of Science in 2008. She currently works as a policy researcher for the nonprofit People and Nature Reconciliation (PanNature) in Vietnam, where she coordinates projects on environmental protection and natural resource management and conducts advocacy and capacity building work on environmental law monitoring.

Van has coauthored a number of policy briefs on environmental impact assessment, prosecution for environmental crimes and biodiversity conservation in Vietnam, among other topics. While at Revenue Watch, Van will be working with the RWI Revenue Transparency Index team to research levels of transparency in Vietnam. In addition her research will focus on the environmental externalities of mining, the economic impact of the extractive sector and contract transparency. After the fellowship, Van seeks to increase awareness of transparency and Extractive Industry Transparency Initiative issues within government and civil society in Vietnam.

Source: http://www.revenuewatch.org/news/news-article/ecuador/revenue-watch-welcomes-new-capacity-advancement-fellows-ecuador-and-vietna

VietnamNews: Dam-building threatens Mekong environment

HA NOI — Economic development on the Mekong River is short-sighted and unsustainable, environmentalists heard at a meeting in Ha Noi yesterday.

The meeting, entitled Mekong: Energy – Environment – Livelihood Security, was co-organised by PanNature, a Ha Noi-based non-profit organisation; the Viet Nam Rivers Network, comprising civil society groups, academics and community-based organisations; and the Henry L Stimson Centre, an independent, non-profit, public policy institute.

Delegates heard that the biggest threat to the future of the river, its fauna and flora, was the need to dam the Mekong for hydro-power. The Cuu Long (Mekong) Delta in Viet Nam was particularly vulnerable, participants heard.

The 4,800km Mekong flows through six countries – China, Myanmar, Thailand, Laos, Cambodia and Viet Nam. The Lower Mekong Basin in Thailand, Laos, Cambodia and Viet Nam is home to more than 60 million residents from more than 100 different ethnic groups. Most of them are poor farmers and fishermen, whose livelihoods are dependent on the river.

Photo: ThienNhien.Net/PanNature

Representatives from PanNature said the Mekong is home to a diverse array of fish fauna, worth billions of dollars, that provide food security for poor communities in the river’s 795,000sq.km basin.

Participants heard that economic development and poverty alleviation were threatening the livelihoods of those who made a living from the river.

Participants watched a 15-minute video-clip entitled Mekong – The Tipping Point, that highlighted the dangers of damming the river for hydro-power projects.

Timothy Hamlin, from the Henry L Stimson Centre, said that development in Viet Nam need not threaten human security and regional stability.

About 50 participants from key government agencies, Vietnamese NGOs and research institutions attended the meeting.

Source: Vietnam News

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