Archive for October 21st, 2010

October 21, 2010

Laos and the Resource Curse: But development, a great deal of it by Chinese and other foreign interests, is “tearing at the environment, breaking down the foundations of food production and livelihoods,”

Cached:  http://asiasentinel.com/index.php?option=com_content&task=view&id=2773&Itemid=32

Written by Our Correspondent

Thursday, 21 October 2010

China and other nations are making Laos an industrial farm, to the detriment of its ecology

 

The Nam Thuen 2 Dam (photo: InternationalRivers.org)

 

Laos, a landlocked and obscure country of 6.8 million poverty-stricken people, is seeking to develop its way into prosperity through massive investment in dams, mines and plantations, hoping for jobs, rising incomes and revenues to end poverty.

But development, a great deal of it by Chinese and other foreign interests, is “tearing at the environment, breaking down the foundations of food production and livelihoods,” according to a new 130-page report, titled Development in LAO PDR: the Food Security Paradox, produced for the Swiss Agency for Development and Cooperation.The report, written by researcher David Fullbrook, asserts that despite the rapid development, food security will remain out of touch for many, especially women and children and in fact is being imperiled.

Wracked by incessant bombing and the dropping of tens of millions of antipersonnel mines by the Americans during the Vietnam War, Laos remains one of the world’s poorest countries, ranking 135th in the world. Nearly 41 percent of the population are under the age of 14. It is one of the few remaining one-party Communist countries left on the planet. Subsistence agriculture accounts for as much as 30 percent of gross domestic product, according to the CIA Factbook, and provides 80 percent of total employment.

But, Fullbrook writes, “opportunities are being passed up for increasing sustainable food production for domestic and foreign markets and chronic food insecurity is therefore unlikely to decline and may indeed intensify.”

While the government’s development goals are “worthy and ambitious,” he continues the allure of windfall riches masks a high toll on the environment.

Certainly the environmental change is dramatic. Ten dams are now in operation across the country, generating 669 megawatts of power. Another eight are expected to be operational by 2012, generating 2,531 megawatts. Nineteen more are planned and 42 more are the subject of feasibility studies, almost all of them financed and developed by foreign interests expecting to turn a profit from electricity generation. Thailand is to import up to 7,000 megawatts by 2015. Vietnam will take another 3,000 megawatts by 2015 possibly rising to 5,000 megawatts by 2020 according to an understanding reached in December 2006.

In addition, a wide range of foreign countries are seeking to raid Laos’s mineral riches, particularly China and India, who are after substantial potash developments south of Vientiane that could total almost 50 billon mineral tons. Potash is an essential element of fertilizer. There are also a projected 2-2.5 billion tons of bauxite, the ore used to make aluminum. The firs bauxite mine is already under development by a company whose major shareholder is China Nonferrous International Mining, a government-linked company.

Mining is expected to account for 10 percent of GDP by the end of this year, according to government projections, with mining expected to fund a major portion of the government’s budget.

China especially is after Laos’s considerable other natural resources, particularly rubber, pulp for paper, fuel and starch, “changing the face of the landscape and agriculture in Laos,” Fullbrook writes. “Promises of high prices and good incomes are tempting many farmers to switch from meeting the food needs of people to meeting the material needs of industry.”

China’s Yunnan State Farms has obtained rights to develop 166,700 hectares of rubber in four northern provinces. Officials are assessing 50,000 hectares for cassava plantations after reaching an agreement with China’s Zhongxing Telecom Equipment, or ZTE, a leading manufacturer of telecommunications systems. In total ZTE may be seeking 100,000 hectares across four southern provinces.

Other investors are making arrangements with national and provincial authorities to concession or lease for plantations for mono-cropping rubber, eucalyptus, acacia, jatropha, sugar cane or cassava, Fullbrook continues.

An amazing 2 million hectares are being proposed to central authorities for planting in industrial tree crops including acacia and eucalyptus in addition to rubber.

The corollary, however, is that forests are being stripped of foods at unsustainable rates, undoing their ecologies.

“Interests of investors in industrial tree crops may coincide with the government’s goal of increasing ‘forest’ cover from 9 million hectares (42 per cent of land) to 12 million hectares (53 per cent) by 2010,” Fullbrook writes.

By 2020 15 million hectares should be under tree cover (70 per cent).

“If forests are taken to mean a great variety of trees and other flora along with fauna growing symbiotically in a diverse, resilient and bountiful ecosystem, then this will be impossible,” the report continues. “Or if forests mean uniform variety of trees standing together then the targets might be hit by planting industrial trees, which is not without precedent elsewhere.”

However, these developments in dams, mines and industrial forests have severe implications for the environment and the agrarian population who now live on the land. The dams, which are expected to cover as much as 2 million hectares, are changing the ecology, not only for fishing but for agriculture as farmers are forced to switch to dry-crop rice from wetland rice as the dams change the face of the country. Rice land is simply disappearing under water.

“It is understandable to pursue resources-led investment given the extent of poverty in Laos amid so much natural wealth. However similar strategies elsewhere have with but a few exceptions fallen short of expectations. There is much to suggest that expectations will also fall short in Laos,” Fullbrook writes.

“Questions of great uncertainty hang over prospects for global production of food with implications, not least Laos, for supplies, prices and food security. Imports of food into Laos at affordable prices are at risk. Events elsewhere are more likely than before to echo in Laos as acute food insecurity.”

The Amazon Of Asia – Laos

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See Part 1 of this video.

See Part 2 of this video.

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October 21, 2010

Defer dams on the Mekong: report

Defer dams on the Mekong: report

ABC Online

By Greg Wilesmith for Foreign Correspondent

Updated Tue Oct 19, 2010 2:10pm AEDT

 

Ten of the 12 main stream Mekong dams are planned for Laos.

 

A report commissioned by the Mekong River Commission (MRC) has recommended no dam be built on the main stream of the lower Mekong River in south-east Asia for 10 years.

The commission links Thailand, Laos, Cambodia and Vietnam. It also includes China, which has built or is building eight dams on the upper Mekong, and Burma as “dialogue partners”.

The release of the 200-page report comes just weeks after Laos formally notified its Mekong neighbours that it wants to go ahead with a major dam at Xayaboury near the Thailand border.

Having weighed the potential risks and economic benefits of a Mekong mainstream hydropower industry, the recommendation of the strategic environmental assessment (SEA) is to defer any dams for a decade.

This echoes the preferred position of the World Wildlife Fund, which has warned of catastrophic consequences for fish stocks even if only one mainstream dam is built.

Ten of the 12 main stream Mekong dams are planned for Laos. The communist government has been an enthusiastic supporter of hydropower on Mekong tributaries because of the income and foreign exchange generated by selling hydro electricity to Thailand and Vietnam.

The SEA recognises that if most of the mainstream dams are built, then Laos, one of the poorest countries in Asia, will earn billions of dollars annually.

However it also predicts that losses to fisheries would be of the order of $476 million a year and “in the short to medium term, poverty would be made worse by any of the mainstream projects, especially among the poor in rural and urban areas.”

Environmental damage, according to the SEA, would be severe.

The 200-page report says:

 


Lesson Learned

 

“The mainstream projects are likely to result in serious and irreversible environmental damage, losses in long-term health and productivity of natural systems and losses in

biological diversity and ecological integrity.”

But the report does not damn all dams.

It recommends that in a decade of deferment, governments, banks, dam developers and the Mekong River Commission should investigate “innovative” ways of tapping the power of the Mekong mainstream in ways that do not involve damming the full breadth of the river channel.

First posted Tue Oct 19, 2010 1:56pm AEDT

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MRC Report Recommends Decade Deferral of Dam Projects

A report commissioned by the Mekong River Commission (MRC) has recommended the deferral of all main stream dam projects for the lower Mekong River in south-east Asia for a period of 10-years.

Thailand, the 18th of October 2010: The commission, linking Thailand, Laos, Cambodia and Vietnam, issued the 200-page report on Monday, just weeks after Laos formally notified its Mekong neighbours that it will go ahead with plans for a major dam at Xayaboury near the Thai border.

Listing China, who have currently built or are building eight dams on the upper Mekong, and Burma as “dialogue partners,” the report weighed the potential risks and economic benefits of a Mekong main stream hydropower industry, with the recommendation of the Strategic Environmental Assessment (SEA) being to defer any projects for a decade.

This echoes the preferred position of the World Wildlife Fund, which had previously warned of the catastrophic consequences that damming of the Mekong lower regions will have on fish stocks in the crucial waterway, including a rare species of giant catfish.

Ten of 12 impending projects for the Mekong lower region are planned by Laos, the Communist government an enthusiastic proponent of hydropower technologies due to the financial benefits gained through selling the electricity to neighbours Thailand and Vietnam.

The SEA recognised the perhaps billion dollar benefit of main stream dams to the Laos economy, currently one of the poorest nations in Asia. However, it also predicted that the loss to fisheries would affect the region to the tune of US$476 million per year.

“In the short to medium term, poverty would be made worse by any of the mainstream projects, especially among the poor in rural and urban areas. The mainstream projects are likely to result in serious and irreversible environmental damage, losses in long-term health and productivity of natural systems and losses in biological diversity and ecological integrity,” according to the 200-page SEA.

Despite advising a deferral on all dam projects for a decade, the SEA did not condemn the damming of the Mekong in its entirety, offering that the Mekong River Commission should investigate “innovative” ways of tapping power from the Mekong that do not involve damming of the entire breadth of the river channel.

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Environmentalists welcome Mekong commission’s call to postpone dams

monstersandcritics.com

Cached:  http://www.monstersandcritics.com/science/news/article_1592199.php/Environmentalists-welcome-Mekong-commission-s-call-to-postpone-dams

Bangkok – Environmentalists on Monday welcomed a recommendation by the Mekong River Commission to postpone the construction of 11 hydropower dams on the river by 10 years.

The Vientiane-based commission recently published a 200-page report outlining its opposition to the dams on the lower Mekong, South-east Asia’s longest waterway that courses through China, Laos, Myanmar, Thailand, Cambodia and Vietnam.

Although China has already built four hydropower dams on the Upper Mekong, no dams have yet been constructed on the lower mainstream of the river.

The commission, whose membership includes the governments of Cambodia, Laos, Thailand and Vietnam, has advised that 11 proposed dams be deferred for a decade to avoid political and environmental conflicts.

‘The proposed developments when under construction and operating have the potential to create; international tensions within the Lower Mekong Basin due to i) ecosystem integrity, ii) reduced sediment and nutrient loads, iii) disruption to other uses of the Mekong and iv) reduced productivity in fisheries and agriculture,’ the report said.

The conclusions won immediate endorsement from the World Wildlife Fund for Nature (WWF).

‘We need this 10-year deferral so innovative technology, tailor-made to the unique conditions of the Mekong, can be developed to allow for energy production without high risk to the river and the people dependent on its resources,’ Marc Goichot, senior sustainable infrastructure advisor for WWF Greater Mekong, said.

The report warned that any dam built on the lower Mekong would threaten the livelihoods and food security of tens of millions of people in Laos, Cambodia, Thailand and Vietnam.

The commission also warned that dam construction would disrupt the migratory patterns of numerous fish species, including the giant catfish, which is already listed as endangered.

China, which is not a member of the commission, plans to build four more dams on the upper Mekong despite the unknown impact on the nations downstream.

The Stimson Centre think tank warned in August that China’s dams could halt up to 70 per cent of the silt that is normally carried by the river to the lower Mekong countries, depriving them of nutrients.

The Mekong, which flows from the Tibetan plateau to southern Vietnam, feeds and employs up to 60 million people in the region.

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Freeze on Dams Proposed

2010-10-18

An intergovernmental study seeks a 10-year moratorium on the building of hydropower dams along the Mekong River.

 

The Nam Theun 2 power dam under construction in Laos' Nakai plateau, June 28, 2007.

 

A study authorized by an influential intergovernmental panel has called for a 10-year freeze on the construction of hydropower dams along Southeast Asia’s Mekong River.

The report, approved by the Mekong River Commission (MRC), came amid a high level of interest to construct up to 12 mainstream hydropower projects in Cambodia and Laos and on the border of Laos and Thailand.

The river, the world’s 12th-longest and Asia’s 7th-longest, runs through these three countries and China, Burma, and Vietnam.

The Mekong region is home to dozens of rare bird and marine species and already faces threats from pollution, climate change, and the effects of earlier dams that were built in China.

Consultants who conducted the study on proposals to build dams on the Mekong warned that “due to the uncertainties regarding scale and irreversibility of risks in such a complex river system,” any decisions on their construction “should be deferred for a period of up to 10 years,” the MRC said.

They called for reviews to be made every three years “to ensure that the necessary conditions to strengthen understanding of the natural systems as well as management and regulatory processes are conducted effectively.”

Manage shared water resources

The MRC was set up following an agreement by Cambodia, Laos, Thailand, and Vietnam in 1995 to jointly manage their shared water resources and development of the economic potential of the river.

The study, known as the strategic environmental assessment, on the dam projects “demonstrates the value of cooperation amongst MRC member countries on what are highly sensitive issues,” said Jeremy Bird, CEO of the MRC Secretariat in Vientiane.

The assessment results will be used in discussions for hydropower projects “before a decision is made whether or not to go ahead and, if so, under what circumstances.”

Laos has proposed the first mega-dam on the mainstream of the lower Mekong, which is also shared by Thailand, Cambodia and Vietnam.

Many environmental groups and experts opposed the project, saying it would contribute to the damage of the Mekong river network, home to dozens of rare bird and marine species.

They already face threats from pollution, climate change, and the effects of dams that were built earlier in China and have caused water levels to drop sharply on the upper Mekong.

The MRC is merely an advisory body and has no enforcement powers or independent legal authority to coordinate, plan, or oversee projects. Still, environmentalists say the assessment results were significant.

Lao move on dam

Late last month, the Lao government submitted plans to the MRC for the 1,260-megawatt Sayaboury hydropower dam project on the Mekong River, confirming its intention to go ahead with the project.

The plans were conveyed even before the MRC completed the strategic environment assessment and despite the fact that the assessment document was not made available to the public, said Carl Middleton of Thailand’s Chulalongkorn University.

“For several years now there has been lots of concerns about the plans for dams on the Mekong River mainstream part, especially their impact on fisheries, and it is very worrying that the project has got to this state of decision making,” he said.

“Because the Mekong river ecosystem is a complete system, we should be looking at what impact it would have  throughout the basin—It will have a trans-boundary impact.”

The goal of truly cooperative, equitable, and sustainable use of the Mekong “is largely moot as long as China, along with Burma, has declined to join the MRC,” lamented Richard Cronin, director of the Washington based Stimson center’s Southeast Asia program.

“Beijing refuses to share either significant information about its dams or the data that is used in or derived from its own environmental and hydrological studies,” he said.

Contributions by Oratai Singhananth and Max Avary of RFA’s Lao Service. Written in English by Parameswaran Ponnudurai.

Copyright © 1998-2010 Radio Free Asia. All rights reserved.

October 21, 2010

From Laos: 42 years later, a Cortland man can bury his father, a MIA Vietnam War soldier

Welcome home soldier. Sorry it took so long. Thank you. Rest in peace.

I am very glad to read this. Our servicemen and women give so much to our country and deserve to know that this country will be behind them 100%. I think it is wonderful that we are continuing to look for missing servicemen from Vietnam and hope that more families will be able to give their loved ones a resting place of their choice. Thank you to Douglas Glover for his service to our country.

42 years later, a Cortland man can bury his father, a MIA Vietnam War soldier

Cached:  http://www.syracuse.com/news/index.ssf/2010/10/42_years_later_a_cortland_man.html

By Scott Rapp / The Post-Standard

John Berry / The Post-StandardJohn Michael Glover of Cortland holds a portrait of his father, Army Sgt. First Class Douglas Glover, who had been missing in action since 1968, when a helicopter he was in came under fire during a rescue mission in Laos. His family was notified last week that remains found at the site were identified as Glover's. A burial is planned in Arlington National Cemetery in the spring. Behind Glover is a Vietnam memorial dedicated to Cortland County veterans.

Cortland, NY – As the POW-MIA flag swirled in the cool breeze over the Vietnam Veterans Memorial at Cortland’s Courthouse Park, John Michael Glover pointed to his father’s name on the granite memorial.

The black flag has always touched “Mike” Glover, 44, who lives in Cortland. His father, Army Sgt. 1st Class Douglas J. Glover, a special forces Green Beret, was killed during a helicopter rescue mission in Laos 42 years ago.

His remains were never recovered until three years ago. Last week, the military publicly disclosed that it had positively identified the remains of Sgt. Glover and two of his team members.

“I never thought this day would happen,” said Mike Glover, who was about a year old when his father left him and his mother, Rosemarie, for Vietnam.

Glover, who has no siblings, said he always feared that his father might have died a long torturous death as a prisoner of war. It’s a relief, he said, knowing that his father probably died in the firefight.

“In the back of my mind, I always hoped that he didn’t suffer,” said Glover, 44, who bears a striking resemblance to his father.

Now Glover, with his mother’s help, is preparing to bury his father with full military honors at Arlington National Cemetery — possibly in the spring.

“I’m just glad we’re going to finally be able to put him at peace,” Glover said. “There won’t be final closure until we see the coffin lowered into the ground.”

The burial at Arlington will bring his father’s military career full circle. His father, a Cortland native, enlisted in the Army in 1963. Before he joined the Green Berets, he served with an honor guard that escorted military funerals at Arlington.

In April 1964, Glover, an accomplished horseman as a youth, walked Black Jack — the president’s riderless horse — at Army Gen. Douglas MacArthur’s funeral.

Less than four years later, Glover — then 24 — was the leader of an Army helicopter rescue team that was shot down over Laos on Feb. 19, 1968. Glover was one of three American soldiers killed when they tried to pick up a reconnaissance patrol in the mountains of Attapeu Province, according to Air Force Maj. Carie Parker, of the U.S. Defense Department.

Their helicopter was crippled by enemy fire as they attempted to lift off, Parker said. Two other Army helicopters on the mission escaped.

The military tried unsuccessfully to find the remains of the three soldiers in 1995 and 2006. In October 2007, they discovered their remains and helicopter wreckage, Parker said. Dental records were used to identify Glover’s remains.

To this day, Mike Glover wears a thin, stainless-steel POW-MIA bracelet that became popular in the 1970s. His bracelet, like the flag over the memorial, holds special meaning for him. His father’s name and date of death are engraved on the thin band.

Even though his father is coming home, Glover said he would continue to wear the bracelet on his left wrist just as he has done for the past 30 or so years.

“It’s a constant reminder of what he represented,” Glover said. “He fully believed in what he was doing, and I’ve always been so proud of him. And I’ll wear it for the ones who are still missing and the ones who came with no limbs.”

Contact Scott Rapp at srapp@syracuse.com or 289-4839.

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After 42 years, Cortland soldier’s remains identified in Laos

Cached:  http://www.stargazette.com/article/20101018/NEWS01/10180356/After-42-years-Cortland-soldier-s-remains-identified-in-Laos

Army Sgt. 1st Class Douglas J. Glover served for years with an honor guard, providing military funeral honors for fallen soldiers. He walked Black Jack — the president’s horse — during Gen. Douglas MacArthur’s funeral.

Now after about 42 years of being missing in action from the Vietnam War, Glover, of Cortland, will get his own burial with full military honors after the Department of Defense announced over the weekend his remains were identified.

“We are relieved that he is home,” said John Glover, his son. “It is nice to know the military is going to do something for him. It will bring closure to the family.”

Though his remains could not be identified individually, said Larry Greer, spokesman for the Department of Defense, there was enough evidence to lead anthropologists to confirm it was Glover.

On Feb. 19, 1968, Glover was aboard a UH-1H Iroquois helicopter when it was shot down by enemy fire in Laos. They were attempting to pick up a reconnaissance patrol in the mountains of Attapu Province. Three other American service members survived the crash and three Vietnamese Montagnards did not.

After several attempts to return to the area — including ones hours after the crash, a month after the crash, in 1995, and 2006 — a team recovered human remains, wreckage and military-related equipment in 2007.

The family learned about the positive identification in December and expects a funeral service to take place at Arlington National Cemetery in March or April.

John, 44, who lives in Cortland, was only 2 when his father died. He said he did not know the Department of Defense was going to release the information over the weekend; he found out through a friend on Facebook.

“It just brings it up again,” John said. “You prepare yourself before and then all of a sudden I have to take time to take a deep breath again.”

John said his mother, Rosemarie, was caught off guard when she heard through Glover’s sister that it was announced on the radio.

“It has been a shocking type of day,” he said, “even though we already knew about it.”

Although John was too young to really remember his father, his mother always tells him, “he was quite a guy.”

Douglas Glover was born on May 2, 1943 and grew up in Cortland. He attended St. Mary’s School until he graduated high school, said John.

He always loved horses, so after high school he joined the honor guard. He enlisted in the Army in 1963, said John, and became a Green Beret with the Special Forces. His name was added to a Vietnam memorial at the court house in Cortland about 15 years ago, said John.

And while he started as an honor guard member because of his love of horses, John said, he believed in fighting for his country.

“He would have never gone overseas if he stayed with the guard,” John said. “But my mom always told me he believed in what he was fighting for.”

Harvey Baker of Groton, who is a member of the Finger Lakes Chapter 377 Vietnam Veterans of America, said that while there are still 1,708 service members missing from Vietnam, it is good to hear the search continued for Glover.

“It is important to get a full account for all those listed as missing in action,” he said. “I am glad about the cooperation between the Vietnamese and American governments to allow that to occur.”

Though it was a tough day for John and his family, they are glad too.

“After 42 years in the jungle and after the continuation of the war it is amazing they found what they did,” John said. “Our family can now get full closure.”

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