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Mekong News

Bangkok Post

A vandal has killed a Mekong giant catfish being raised in a pond in a public park in Trang municipality and loved by local people, causing much sadness.

Chaninwit Sinchai, 48, chairman of Kapang Surin community in Muang district on Wednesday afternoon showed Trang police the carcass of the young but mature fish, which was around 1.6 metres long and weighed over 20 kilogrammes. It was shot in the head.

Mr Chaninwit said the Mekong giant catfish, a female aged 5-6 years, was in the Kapang Surin pond in the province’s oldest public park.

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Mekong News

The Diplomat

With its extraordinary diversity, the mighty Mekong has long enchanted explorers and travellers. Not only do its currents carry life-giving sediment and nutrients, its waters have provided a living for countless generations.

But for how much longer? How much time is left before the Mekong changes forever? A massive dam-building program is unfolding that will unleash a cascade of 11 dams that will forever lock the river into a series of silent and stagnant reservoirs behind hydraulic walls.

In a clash between a Lao government trying to sell electricity to its energy-hungry neighbors and earn hard currency, and the need to protect and preserve the river’s ecological riches and fisheries, conservation and food security is clearly losing. Construction on the Xayaburi Dam, the first on the Lower Mekong, got underway in 2012. Construction on a second dam, the Don Sahong, will start at the end of 2014. Work is moving forward faster than the completion of scientific studies needed to provide the evidence of “significant harm.”

This year is likely to be particularly critical for the future of Southeast Asia’s most important river, which originates from the Tibetan plateau and passes through six countries as it meanders its way to the delta in Vietnam.

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Mekong News

Bangkok Post

Environmentalists have expressed disappointment at the outcome of the second Mekong River Commission (MRC) summit, which wrapped up yesterday.

International Rivers, an environmental and human rights organisation, yesterday released a statement slamming regional leaders’ failure to address concerns over the proliferation of dams on the mainstream Mekong.

“While International Rivers is pleased that Mekong leaders recognise the negative environmental and social impacts that hydropower development poses to the mainstream, we are disappointed that leaders did not condemn the current rush of dam building on the Mekong,” the statement, signed by Southeast Asia programme director Ame Trandem, said.

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Vietnam Net Bridge

A prolonged period of scorching sun over the last several days is endangering the forests of the Mekong Delta. Locals, fearing the worst, are devoting all of their resources and strength to preventing catastrophic fires.

According to the Kien Giang provincial Forest Rangers’ Unit, 23,000 hectares, or 30 percent of the total forest area in the province is at the risk. In the districts of Phu Quoc, U Minh Thuong, An Bien, An Minh, Hon Dat, Kien Luong and Giang Thanh, third and fourth level alarms have been rung .

On Phu Quoc island, 60 out of the 37,000 hectares of protected and special-use forests are considered to be at high risk. Another 3,500 hectares in the communes of Bai Thom, Cua Can, Ganh Dau and Ham Ninh are likely to burst into flame at any time.

According to Tran Hong Dao, Head of the U Minh Thuong District’s Forest Rangers’ Unit, the total area of forest land at high risk is growing daily. A third level alarm has been set for approximately 278 hectares of forests in the district.

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Mekong News

Sea Ship News

A stalled dredging project has resumed which will eventually allow ships of up to 20,000 dwt sail down the Mekong delta region. Dredging of 46.5 km of the Hau River and nearby canals has restarted after years of being on hold due to financial constraints. The project is likely to cost twice the original VND5trn earmarked once finished at the end of next year.

According to the Vietnam Maritime Administration, the volume of cargo transported via waterways in the Mekong Delta in 2012 was only 6.6m tons compared to the demand of 30m tons. Up to 80% of import-export cargoes had to transit in Ho Chi Minh City before being shipped to the buyer, since the Hau River waterway only allows for vessels of 5,000 dwt, causing the transport cost to surge by US$170-180 a container.

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Oryza

Rice production in thousands of hectares in Vietnam’s Mekong Delta region is adversely affected by drought and saltwater intrusion, according to local sources.

The Mekong Delta accounts for around 50% of Vietnam’s total rice production of around 28 million tons, and for around 90% of exports of around 7 million tons. However, farmers in the region are likely to lose a significant part of their rice crop this year due to shortage of water and increasing salinity.

The Department of Agriculture and Rural Development had advised farmers to avoid planting this year, but most farmers carried on with planting. Officials say that average rice yields could drop around 30-40% due to salinity alone. Salinity has increased this year due to saltwater intrusion from the seas into the rivers.

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Shanghai Daily

Vietnam’s southern economic hub Ho Chi Minh (HCM) City will host the second summit of the Mekong River Commission (MRC) on April 2-5 that focuses on cross border cooperation, according to organizers on Monday.

Themed “Cooperation for Water, Energy and Food Security in Trans-boundary Basins under a Changing Climate”, the summit aims to strengthen the commitment of cross-border cooperation in the sustainable development of the Mekong River Basin’s water resources, which is a pressing demand along with the need for water, energy, and food resources.

The summit will highlight the will and political commitment of leaders from the MRC member countries to enhance regional affiliation in overcoming all challenges for the sustainable development of the Mekong River Basins.

The meeting will also outline priority areas for the MRC in the immediate future, especially in ensuring water, energy, and food security and reducing the impact of climate change.

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The Phnom Penh Post

Yin Vuth, one of hundreds of Cambodians who protested against the Don Sahong dam over the weekend, said that if construction on the project in Laos goes ahead, the fish will disappear, and once the fish disappear, the dolphins will be next.

“All we will have left will be water contaminated by the dam,” said Vuth, 53, who runs a dolphin-spotting tourism business about 2 kilometres from the construction site in Laos’s Champasak province, just over the border from Cambodia.

About 400 protesters traversed the Mekong River on 50 or so longboats through Kratie province’s Sambor district and Stung Treng’s Thala Barivat district near the two countries’ border in the northeast.

The demonstrators wore white shirts and unfurled banners as they negotiated the waterway, calling for the preservation of the river system and the cancellation of the multimillion-dollar dam.

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Vietnam Net Bridge

The farmers in the coastal provinces of Tien Giang, Ben Tre, Tra Vinh, Bac Lieu, Ca Mau and Kien Giang are experiencing the difficult days due to the lack of water. They don’t have enough fresh water for rice fields, for daily lives, and therefore, have to live in the polluted environment.

The dry season in the southern region, beginning in December and finishing in May, has become the obsession for local people over the last many years.

In Kien Giang, Ca Mau and Tra Vinh, fresh water is as expensive as gold. People have to spend VND30,000 for a 30 liter can of water. Meanwhile, they take baths and wash clothes with the salt water from the local canals.

Do Thi Kim Thu in Hon Dat district of Kien Giang province said she luckily can use the fresh water she stored in the rainy season and doesn’t have to buy fresh water at the exorbitant prices like the neighbors.

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Phnom Penh Post

Laos’s controversial Xayaburi dam is 30 per cent built, its government has told the Post.

Deputy Energy and Mines Minister Viraponh Viravong said the project – which Laos began work on without regional approval in November 2012 – remains on track to be functioning in 2019.

“The project is currently 30 percent complete, and proceeding on time and on budget,” Viravong said in an email.

The $3.8 billion dam, on the Mekong mainstream in the country’s north, is the first of about 10 dams Laos has planned for the river and which conservation groups warn will decimate Cambodia’s fish stocks.

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