Regional News

Experts predict Mekong dry season to be severe

VietNamNet Bridge

Mekong Delta farmers experienced the worst dry season in history in 2016, and are now  facing another severe season in 2017.

A report from the General Department of Irrigation shows that in the 2016 dry season, farmers in the southern part of the central region had to stop cultivating 23,000 hectares of rice because of the lack of water.

The drought affected 43,000 hectares of industrial crops in the Central Highlands and the eastern part of the southern region.Meanwhile, a report of the Department of Agricultural Economics showed that 300,000 households lacked water for daily life in the dry season last year.

Le Van Hieu, Soc Trang province deputy chair, said drought and saline intrusion affected 31,000 hectares and caused damages worth VND900 billion. Other localities reported damages worth VND15 trillion, despite great efforts to mitigate the consequences from the natural calamity.

According to the Central Hydrological Forecast Center, rainfall in the Mekong Delta from March to June will be less than the average level of recent years.

Throughout the 2016 – 2017 dry season, the Mekong River’s total flow to the region will be 15-30 percent lower than the average level, equal to the 2014-2015 season and higher than 2015-2016.

Duong Van Ni from Can Tho University warned that the lack of water for Mekong Delta is not only because of the natural calamity, but also due to appearance of a series of hydropower dams on Mekong.

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Regional News

What’s at stake in China’s plan to blow up islands in the Mekong

The Conversation

by Alan Marshall, Mahidol University

The pla beuk is a beautiful behemoth; a gigantic toothless catfish with skin smooth and silky to the touch.

It’s the largest freshwater fish in the world and, once upon a time, these fish swam the great lengths of the mighty Mekong River from southern China, through Burma, Laos, Thailand, and Cambodia, all the way to the river’s delta in Vietnam.

Now, there are maybe only a few hundred adult specimens still living, hidden in isolated deep pools in a few relatively undisturbed places along the river.

If you wish to catch a glimpse of one, the best bet is to cast your eyes about the murals of the Mekong’s resorts, restaurants and riverside temples, where they’re often painted in a serene satiny blue.

In folklore, pla beuk was once revered throughout the Mekong basin and those who sought to capture one for eating in days gone by would often perform special rituals and offerings before heading out to fish for it.

The traditional way to claim the life of a pla beuk was to go out in a wooden boat and throw a homemade spear or fibrous net laden with rocks at each corner. But now China wants to kill them another away – with bombs.

“Who would bomb a catfish?” I expect you’re asking.

On May 14, the Chinese Government launched its Silk Road Project to develop trade routes across the lands of Central Asia to Europe as well as sea routes across Asian seas.

But China’s vision of Asian trade routes is not without its own bombs. The company charged with developing a trade route along the Mekong River (the state-owned Chinese Communications Construction Company) is set to dynamite river islands on a 900-kilometre section of the river that passes from the Chinese province of Yunnan through to the river port of Luang Prabang in Laos.

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Regional News

Cambodia’s Lower Sesan 2 Dam Reservoir used to launder illegal timber, police say

Radio Free Asia

A company owned by business magnate Kith Meng is using its license to clear a reservoir for the Lower Sesan 2 hydropower dam in Cambodia’s Stung Treng province as a cover to launder illegally logged timber, according to a report by the country’s police force.

Ang & Associates Lawyers, a subsidiary of Kith Meng’s Royal Group, has been logging timber from areas outside the 36,000-hectare (89,000-acre) area earmarked for the 400-megawatt dam’s reservoir and selling it to buyers across the border in Vietnam, said the report, posted to the website of the National Police on Tuesday.

Royal Group is constructing the dam in Stung Treng’s Sesan district along with Chinese partners and provided Ang & Associates with a contract to begin clearing the reservoir in 2012.

“Forest destruction activities in Sesan district and timber smuggling for sale in Vietnam is ongoing in the name of the company clearing the Lower Sesan 2 reservoir, owned by business tycoon Kith Meng, but the relevant authorities have ignored it and failed to prevent it,” the report said.

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Regional News

Mekong Delta faces increased risk of landslides as sediment loss continues

VietNamNet Bridge

Every year, 55 million tons of sediment is lost from the rivers in Mekong Delta, 90 percent of which is sand. Nguyen Huu Thien, an independent expert, said the Mekong Delta has been taking shape for the last 6,000 years thanks to alluvial accretion. But the volume of sediment in the river and canal system has decreased gradually, leading to an increased risk of landslides.

The coastal provinces in the western part of the southern region are also directly affected by the change. The alluvium from river mouths to the sea has the function of protecting the coast, easing the impact from waves hitting the coast. When there is not enough silt, the sea water will cause erosion.

Therefore, according to Thien, it is necessary to re-establish control over land exploitation to prevent the loss of natural resources. Research also points out the high risks that the Mekong River Delta is facing.

A survey by the Mekong River Commission (MRC) found that in 1992-2014, the amount of suspended sediment in Mekong River valley decreased from 160 million tons to 75 million tons per annum.

According to Marc Goichot, an energy and hydropower expert from WWF, the sediment depletion has relations with sand mining and construction of dams upstream of the Mekong river.

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Regional News

Vietnam struggles to preserve biodiversity

Vietnam Plus

Preserving biodiversity in Vietnam was the main topic of discussion at a workshop on May 5 in Hanoi.

Nguyen Quoc Dung, from the Forest Inventory and Planning Institute under the Ministry of Agriculture and Rural Development emphasised the need for a strategic framework and action plan for the Core Environment Programme (CEP)’s phase 3 (2018-2022), building a legal framework for biodiversity corridors in Vietnam.

Marine protected areas and mangroves in Vietnam are smaller than in other nations so biodiversity corridors will help develop biodiversity.

“It is necessary to set up detailed projects for coastal provinces in the context of Vietnam being affected by climate change,” Dung said.

“Forests have been planted in the country to cope with climate change, with 42 projects in coastal provinces. [But]we have no national-scale project for the restoration of coastal forests and biodiversity preservation, although Vietnam has high biodiversity,” he said.

“Restoring and preserving biodiversity is very difficult and costly here.”

Problems and disagreements between agencies on biodiversity preservation hamper the work, harming scientific research and environmental protection projects.

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