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Villagers urged to swap fishing for ecotourism

The Tourism Minister has called on riverside communities in Kratie and Stung Treng provinces to avoid fishing in areas where dolphins live to attract visitors who want to see the rare creatures. Thong Khon’s call came as the government prepared to open the third annual River Festival in Stung Treng province on March 24. Mr. Khon said the country’s Mekong communities have the potential to build their economies around ecotourism attractions that appeal to both local and foreign visitors, especially in Kratie and Stung Treng provinces, where the river dolphins live. He urged locals to do more to preserve the dolphins’ habitat.

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Floating villages to be relocated

Kampong Chhnang provincial authorities have outlined plans to relocate thousands of families living on the Tonle Sap river in an effort to curb water pollution. Provincial governor Chhour Chan Dern said five floating villages in three different locations along a stretch of the river in his province cause environmental pollution and damaged the river’s ecosystem. “All floating villages have to be relocated to dry land and all permanent settlements built on the water will be banned,” he said. Mr. Chan Dern said provincial authorities would relocate all five of the floating villages, however they are encouraging residents to leave the river voluntarily.

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Saving Vietnam's floating markets

Amid mighty rivers and dense mangroves, the busy floating markets in Vietnam’s Mekong Delta have long shaped the delta’s well-known “water civilization.” As many as a dozen floating markets still remain along major waterways around the delta, where boats, houses, and markets float upon the maze of rivers, canals, and arroyos that crisscross
the landscape like arteries. No one knows exactly how old the delta’s floating markets are, but some historians believe they have flourished since the Nguyen Dynasty in the early 19th century. Since then, they have long been major markets, sustaining thousands of floating lives. In the Vietnamese floating markets, hundreds of boats and sampans, full of fruit and vegetables, flowers, and handicraft products, gather to trade their various goods, making for crowded and frenetic scenery. The bustling commerce of these “floating towns” stands in contrast to the languid and quiet lifestyle in the countryside along the river banks. More importantly, however, the cultural and historical values that the markets reflect are considered a key to understanding the Mekong Delta inhabitants’ identity and traditions.

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Cambodia’s Sambor dam plans causes controversy as public left in the Dark

“If the dam is built, it will be like before, in the time of the Khmer Rouge when we all had to move,” said Plau Saret, 44, of Domrae Village on the Mekong River island of Koh Tnaot, right next to the proposed Sambor Dam site. In 2011, she and her husband built a new house. Then, a few years ago, she saw Chinese surveyors digging in the river. The Sambor Dam is one of Cambodia’s priority energy projects, according to the country’s “Master plan for the development of energy generation.” This plan was a well-kept secret until two pages from it appeared Feb. 17 in a snapshot posted on the Facebook page of Phay Siphan, a government spokesman. The plan posted by Siphan states the Sambor Dam will be completed in three stages from 2025-2027, with a total power output of 1,800 megawatts. Attempts by Mongabay to get government comments on the plan were not answered and few details are yet known about the proposed scheme.

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Call for ban on Mekong dams

A group of 50 youth, community and civil society representatives from Cambodia, Laos, Myanmar and Thailand gathered to celebrate the International Day of Action for Rivers in Kratie province on March 14. They used the event in Sambo district to urge the government and the public to protect rivers and stop the construction of dams on the Mekong, which they fear will destroy natural resources and biodiversity. Kai Vanda, a local community member who joined the celebration, said the river is a lifeline for people in the area, including farmers and fishing communities. He said it is everyone’s job to protect the river and speak out against dam construction, which will damage environmental biodiversity and fisheries resources.

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Japan wades in on Tonle Sap algae

The Japan International Cooperation Agency has agreed to oversee a project to help recover water quality in the Tonle Sap lake in response to the appearance of a large bloom of algae. The project is part of a wider five-year initiative to improve water quality in the kingdom, according to Say Bora, the program officer at JICA. Mr. Bora said the project is expected to create an environmental database on Tonle Sap lake, plus a platform and analytic tools for monitoring the water environment there.

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No fear of drought this summer

Many parts of the country are experiencing water shortages, as summer has officially begun, but authorities have said that there is adequate water supply for the current dry season. The Meteorological Department announced recently that summer had begun on March 3. Some areas of the country are facing a water shortage. Water levels at the Lam Takong Dam in Nakhon Ratchasima province were down to 24 per cent of total capacity. However, water experts ruled out the possibility of a severe drought this year, although they cautioned people to use water wisely. Royon Jitdon, director of the Hydro and Agro Informatics Institute, assured that the water supply will be enough for this dry season and there are only some places that will face water scarcity.

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Mekong riverbanks to be restored

Mines Ministry officials on March 9 announced a project to shore up sections of the Mekong river affected by erosion that threatens families in Kandal province’s Mok Kampol district. Fifty-nine families living along the river say they have been affected by riverbank collapses. Speaking to about 100 people on March 9 during a public forum on restoring the riverbank, ministry Secretary of State Dith Tina said the ministry will reinforce or restore sections of the riverbank. “We will use bags, known as geotech bags, filled with sand and piled up on top of each other along the riverbank and then we will pump sand into the space to shore up the riverbank to stop more and more collapses of villages into the water,” Mr. Tina said.

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Ministry warns of unusual dry season rain

The Ministry of Water Resources and Meteorology has warned of impending unseasonal rain from this week until early next week, especially in lowland areas. According to Monday’s announcement, wind coming from the South China Sea will affect the country and cause rain in some provinces until Monday. “Rain will fall on Tuesday and Wednesday [today] in provinces near the Cambodia-Thailand border and in coastal areas,” it said. The unseasonal rain will fall throughout most of the country on Sunday or Monday and could last several days, the announcement added.

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Mekong water diplomacy vital

Dr Lê Tuấn Anh, deputy director of the Research Institute for Climate Change at Cần Thơ University, speaks to Sài Gòn Giải Phóng (Liberated Sài Gòn) newspaper about the negative impact of climate change. Do you anticipate that in 2017 the Mekong Delta region will face a drought as severe as last year’s? In my opinion, the weather in the dry season this year will not be as severe as that of last year. Of course, the region will still suffer the problem of fresh water shortage and salt water intrusion because the rainfall last year was low. That’s why right now the local government should seek measures to mitigate the negative impact for farmers. Do you think such natural phenomena have become a natural cycle in the Mekong Delta?

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