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Posts Tagged ‘milton osborne’

Milton Osborne: The Mekong River Under Threat

In read on February 15, 2010 at 1:55 pm

Read this. Dr. Osborne has been a scholar and authority on Southeast Asia for many years, having written crucial texts, including one biography of Cambodian King Norodom Sihanouk which all Cambodianists should read.  He has also had a long-standing interest and authoritative position on the Mekong, having authored a wonderful history of European attempts to achieve its headwaters, and most recently, a more contemporary and scientific examination of the Mekong and the (already going on but oftentimes described as ‘impending’) water wars. His bio at the Japan Focus site (which includes directions for getting to the entire paper by Osborne at the bottom of the page) follows this excerpt.

The Mekong River Under Threat

Milton Osborne

Until the 1980s the Mekong River flowed freely for 4,900 kilometres from its 5,100-metre high source in Tibet to the coast of Vietnam, where it finally poured into the South China Sea. The Mekong is the world’s twelfth longest river, and the eighth or tenth largest, in terms of the 475 billion cubic metres of water it discharges annually. Then and now it passes through or by China, Burma (Myanmar), Laos, Thailand, Cambodia and Vietnam. It is Southeast Asia’s longest river, but 44% of its course is in China, a fact of capital importance for its ecology and the problems associated with its governance.

The Mekong is Southeast Asia’s largest river, seen here at sunset in Luang Prabang, Laos. (Photograph by Milton Osborne)

In 1980 not only were there no dams on its course, but much of the river could not be used for sizeable, long-distance navigation because of the great barrier of the Khone Falls, located just above the border between Cambodia and Laos, and the repeated rapids and obstacles that marked its course in Laos and China. Indeed, no exaggeration is involved in noting that the Mekong’s overall physical configuration in 1980 was remarkably little changed from that existing when it was explored by the French Mekong Expedition that travelled painfully up the river from Vietnam’s Mekong Delta to Jinghong in southern Yunnan in 1866 and 1867. This was the first European expedition to explore the Mekong from southern Vietnam into China and to produce an accurate map of its course to that point.

Since 2003, the most substantial changes to the Mekong’s character below China have related to navigation. Following a major program to clear obstacles from the Mekong begun early in the present decade, a regular navigation service now exists between southern Yunnan and the northern Thai river port of Chiang Saen. It is not clear whether the Chinese, who promoted the concept of these clearances and carried out the work involved, still wish to develop navigation further down the river, as was previously their plan. To date, the environmental effects of the navigation clearances have been of a limited character.

read the rest here.

The Mekong at Sunset near Luang Prabang, Laos. Photo by M. Osborne

Read the rest of this entry »

SOUNDING for Week Ending 1/15/2010

In sounding on January 14, 2010 at 1:31 pm

Cambodia

KI-Media consolidated a series of youtube clips from a French-language documentary film about the Khmer Republic under Lon Nol, from 1970-1975. Very worth checking out, especially if you can understand French. [link]

Whenever the topic of the Khmer Rouge comes up, you’re bound to hear someone impugn Noam Chomsky as a Khmer Rouge apologist. Here’s a new review of the evidence, which seems pretty evenhanded to me. Check it out. [link]

Milton Osborne wrote an essay on “The Mekong River Under Threat” for Asia-Pacific Journal, reprinted here in Japan Focus. Milton Osborne, “The Mekong River Under Threat,” The Asia-Pacific Journal, 2-2-10, January 11, 2010. [link]

Important statements from Chea Mony, president of the Free Trade Union Workers of the Kingdom of Cambodia (FTUWKC), on the reason why there were fewer labor actions in this last year:

The president of the Cambodian Free Trade Union of Workers stated that there were more than 100 demonstrations and strikes held by workers in 2009, but this number is less than in previous years. However, the decline in numbers is not due to better working conditions, but due to restrictions imposed by the government on demonstrations and strikes, especially due to suppression of workers movements by the local authorities. [Daem Ampil, translated by the Mirror. link]

Mony has also written to the US government asking for them to drop all export tariffs from Cambodian goods to the US. [link]

The International Republican Institute (IRI), rather infamous among those who pay attention, even rising to the level of international scrutiny during the US 2008 presidential election (McCain is a booster), declares that Cambodia’s government just keeps getting better. Read it here. [link]

Buddhist

Thich Nhat Hanh has finally spoken out forcefully, laying the blame for the violent evictions of students, monks, and nuns in Vietnam, upon mobs for hire at the command of the Vietnamese government. This is important; wait for more. [link]

Another positive review of Anne Hansen’s excellent book How To Behave, by Craig Reynolds. [link] I reviewed Hansen’s book previously for the Journal of Asian Studies, 67.3, pp. 1123-1127.

World

Of course, the biggest news of the week is the unimaginable devastation ongoing in Haiti. It’s unbearable. Please consider giving money to worthwhile organizations.  William Easterly, the most prominent critic of bad development aid and proponent of effective aid, has a blog called “Aid Watch.” Over there, Laura Freschi has published suggestions.  Please take a moment. [link] Avaaz has other good suggestions [link]. You might also read Anthroman’s reflections on Pat Robertson’s horrific comments.

Thinking

Not that this is really news, but the World Food Program announced the other day that of all the world’s hungry people, three-quarters are the rural poor. [link]

I’m digging on the Middle Mekong Archaeological Project’s weblog. Check out these two posts: Guano and sacrificial pigs, and A family in every pot. The latter includes this awesome, death-related, photograph.

Oh yes, Google might stop helping the PRC censor its citizens. [link]

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