China’s 11 hydropower dams built on the upper Mekong River held back massive quantities of water over the last two years, causing crop failure and depleting fish catches, and threatening the livelihoods of the 60 million people living downstream. Besides, China has financed half of Laos’ 60 dams on Mekong tributaries and two more on the mainstream, pushing Laos' debt levels to about US$17 billion in 2019, nearly equivalent to the country’s annual GDP. Furthermore, other projects in Thailand have been cancelled out of concern that it would give Beijing too much strategic and economic influence deep into mainland Southeast Asia. American researcher Murray Hiebert explains the situation.
Hanoi is applying its South China Sea playbook to the Mekong. It is putting effort into enmeshing all stakeholders while carefully balancing relationships with major powers interested in the Mekong. What does this mean for Southeast Asia and the region's relationship with China and the US? RSIS graduate research assistant Phan Xuan Dung examines how Vietnam can make a difference.
The world has become greener and cleaner because of a drastic drop in human activity brought about by the pandemic. Professor Koh Lian Pin opines that these effects may be only temporary but the fact remains that the world needs to direct more attention to climate change. He sees China playing a bigger role in implementing nature-based solutions for climate and sustainable development. With its experience and immense investments in scientific research and development, it could even lend a hand to countries in the Asian region.
Construction work at a 3.7 billion RMB hydropower station was suspended by court order in China recently, because it could destroy the natural habitat of endangered green peacocks and a rare plant accorded first-grade protection by the state. Chinese academic Zhang Tiankan weighs up the arguments of nature versus economic gain. What is the cost of having an intact, healthy ecosystem? Should it all be expressed in economic terms? And how can humans fight nature's battles on the latter’s behalf? Can there be a win-win situation?
Singapore’s oldest Buddhist monastery, the Lian Shan Shuang Lin Monastery, is set for a fresh round of restoration works. Its bell and drum towers, which are in severe disrepair, will be rebuilt at an estimated cost of $7 million, and will open to the public by the second half of 2022.