This policy brief aims to highlight and analyze the impact of land cover changes to the socio-economic conditions of four villages in Bawlakhe District, Kayah State and its policy implications in Myanmar. The study area lies in the Thanlwin (Salween) River Basin, home to communities of various ethnic groups including the Kayah, Yintale and Shan, as well as being rich in biodiversity. These local communities heavily depend on this watershed area for most parts of their lives, including food, water, security, fuel and income. The main economy of the people in these areas depends on forest production, which is the major economy in Bawlakhe. Moreover, local people depend on subsistence farming, especially shifting cultivation which is practiced in these areas. Their livelihoods are still closely related to the environment and largely contribute to the local economy. This policy brief shares geographical research to describe the role of forest use in support of livelihoods for the communities in the study area.Declining fish stock and catches within the estuary and out at sea have had deep impacts on community livelihoods, ecology and socio-economics within last ten to forty years. Encouraging the reduction and management of the natural and anthropogenic threats might encourage specific ways to improve the fishery status of the estuary.Read More
The Thanlwin/Salween River originates in China, where it is known as the Nu (angry) River and flows south into Myanmar, then eventually Thailand. It meets with two rivers (namely the Gyine and Attran Rivers) at the point of Mawlamyine and together discharge into the sea (Gulf of Mottama) by two channels (namely the Mawlamyine and Dayebauk Rivers). These four Thanlwin tributaries are experiencing daily tidal intrusion and freshwater discharge, forming estuarine environments and habitats for varieties of fresh, brackish and marine creatures. The term estuary refers to a mixing body of fresh and sea waters. The Mon and Kayin ethnic groups are dominant around the estuary and the riparian communities largely depend on fisheries within the river tributaries as well as those out at sea for their livelihoods and survival.
Declining fish stock and catches within the estuary and out at sea have had deep impacts on community livelihoods, ecology and socio-economics within last ten to forty years. Encouraging the reduction and management of the natural and anthropogenic threats might encourage specific ways to improve the fishery status of the estuary.Read More
Kun Lone township, situated in Lashio District, Northern Shan State, Myanmar is home to various ethnic groups, namely the Kokant, Wa, Kachin, Larr hue, Bamar, and Shan. It is also home to various medicinal plants that are essential for traditional medicine practices. In developing countries, traditional medicine is perceived to be an important part of human health care (WHO, 2002). In Myanmar, health care has even been provided to the people with potent therapies of traditional medicines at Yangon Traditional Medicine Hospital, Mandalay traditional medicine hospital and Monywa Traditional Medicine hospital. Myanmar traditional medicine practitioners aim to give health care services to people in accordance with their traditions. This policy brief documents traditional ethnomedicine use and practices in Kun Lone township and suggests ways that traditional medicine can continue to provide health care benefits for the future.Read More
Myanmar is a developing country trying to follow in the footsteps of its neighboring countries, which are rather more developed than itself. The Myanmar Government wants to harness its natural resources and sees the rivers of the country as a national asset in acquiring regular revenue for the government. The decision to build many mega dams on the major rivers of the country such as the Irrawaddy, Salween and Sittaung rivers is considered a natural resource development. With their high energy needs, Myanmar’s two neighboring countries, China and Thailand, want cheap energy by importing hydropower from Myanmar.Read More
By Carl Middleton, Naruemon Thabchumpon, Van Bawi Lian and Orapan Pratomlek
Hakha town is the capital of Chin State, Myanmar, located in the mountainous Northwest of the country. In recent years, the town’s population has faced growing water insecurity, which has created great hardship for the local population. Meanwhile, a major landslide in the town in July 2015 compounded these challenges, resulting in the resettlement of over 4000 people.
The purpose of the research presented in this report is to understand the underlying factors and dynamics that have produced water insecurity in Hakha town to generate policy recommendations towards attaining sustainable access to water for all.Read More
Gender-related issues figure high on global research and policy agendas, especially economic issues such as employment and development inequity between men and women. This research has identified gaps in employment opportunities between men and women and has also identified the related causes of gender inequity in terms of their employment opportunities. The results of this research culminate to contribute to raising awareness of the affected people in the reservoir resettlement area, particularly focusing on the role of women. The research emphasizes the changes in employment circumstances and prospects after resettlement, and compares the income of people before and after the transition.Read More
Watershed resources in the Shan state of Myanmar provide the base for livelihood security among rural populations, providing food, shelter, and medicine to regions where markets, clinics, and schools are scarce. Taungya, or shifting cultivation, utilizes the landscape as an agricultural mosaic of forest and upland fields.
The Thanlwin River, also known as the Salween, provides fish, crustaceans, and riverbank vegetables as food for village members; gold for currency; water for drinking and household needs; and power for micro-hydro generators.
This policy brief provides recommendations for hydropower developments, focusing particularly on the nexus of gender and hydropower development. In recent years, Myanmar has been moving towards market economy development with a tendency to extract natural resources in order to fuel economic growth. Hydropower is an example of how the government is meeting the demands of economic growth through electricity that benefits some at the expense of others. Gender is just one aspect among many that has been undermined in this process. It is recognized in Myanmar that women are important bearers of culture in society, often with a close relationship with the environment, but they have little recognition in society and have little decision making power when it comes to natural resource managementRead More
Following concerns raised by a coalition of Chinese environmental groups, scientists and policy makers including the Ministry of Environmental Protection (MEP), the 13 proposed mainstream dams on the Nu/Salween River have been under suspension since 2004. It is now very likely that the dam project will be cancelled given the plan’s lack of inclusion in China’s 13th five-year development plan and the announcement of a project to build national parks in the area in 2016. This is a positive development for those concerned about sustainable development in the Mekong Region, as well as an opportunity for concerned citizens, environmentalists and the Chinese authorities to work closer together to build a sustainable future for the Nu River in China as well as its residents upstream and downstream.Read More
By Carl Middleton, Somporn Pengkam, and Areeya Tivasuradej
This chapter illustrates how the Khao Hinsorn community in Thailand have undertaken a CHIA as a means to challenge an expert-led EHIA that backs a proposed coal-fired power station near their community. Through the CHIA, the community successfully revealed analytical shortcomings in the EHIA, and in the process broadened the definition of legitimate knowledge considered within formal state-led decision-making processes. We argue that CHIA has emerged as an important and strategic collective action response in Thailand, which has contributed towards social learning and community empowerment, and thus enabled the contestation of unequal power relations within knowledge production with implications for social justice outcomes.Read More
The Salween River is valuable for the livelihoods and culture of millions of ethnic people living along it. Hatgyi Dam is one of the five dams that is planned to be built in Karen State, Myanmar. Situated in an armed conflict area, the dam is not only challenging the livelihoods and culture of the local people but is also being seriously affected by decades of violent conflict resulting in human rights violations and mass displacement of civilians. There are questions of community involvement in the decision-making processes regarding the dam project, and therefore a constructive response is needed for justice in water governance on the Salween River. Drawing from recent research on the Hatgyi Dam, this policy brief applies the concepts of "Rights" and "Rites" to examine community expectations and decision-making processes towards the project. The “Rights-Based Approach” is a formalized and legalistic approach normally recognized by the state, while the “Rites-Based Approach” is a locally defined natural resource management approach which is centered around cultural norms and local knowledge. The objective is to show how both approaches of “Rights and Rites" could help contribute towards inclusive decision-making and address concerns about injustice. The issue of justice is not yet fully considered in the current development policy agenda for water governance in Myanmar, and decision-making over the Salween dams to date has been highly centralized without community participation. Within the opportunities provided by Myanmar’s current political context, "Rights" and "Rites" approaches towards water governance policy in Myanmar could contribute positively towards inclusive decision-making in order to address the issue of justice in water governance for the Salween River.Read More
A comparative study on China’s and Myanmar’s approaches to environmental impact assessments (EIA) to hydropower projects shows that the Chinese EIA is weaker than the Myanmar EIA based on Myanmar’s EIA procedural rules of 2015 and other environmental laws and standards. These findings partially explain the not very successful Chinese investment in hydropower projects in Myanmar, which are argued to have important and often negative implications for both countries.Read More
Until recent times, due to a lack of transparency, accountability and community participation, large scale hydropower dams in resource rich, ethnic areas rarely benefited the local people, instead having negative impacts on their livelihoods and the environment. Existing studies have indicated that dam projects in ethnic areas are associated with human rights violations and increasing the risk of triggering conflict in such sensitive areas. In most cases, disadvantaged groups such as women and children are usually the ones mostly affected. Given the historical and traditional lack of women’s participation in public affairs, especially in ethnic areas, women’s voices are rarely heard and mostly excluded from the development process that directly affects their lives.Read More
“Sustainable Hydropower” Discourse in the Politics of Climate Change in Southeast Asia
By Carl Middleton and Mira Käkönen
Presented at the European Association for Southeast Asian Studies (EURO-SEA) conference,
University of Oxford, 16-18 August, 2017
In the 1990s, the global hydropower industry faced a growing crisis of legitimacy as its contribution towards development was questioned. Southeast Asia was central to this debate. The World Bank’s exit from large hydropower globally was marked by Thailand’s Pak Mun Dam in 1994, and its return by the Nam Theun 2 in Laos in 2006 accompanied by claims of a new best-practice approach. Meanwhile, the International Hydropower Association developed sustainability guidelines in 2004 and subsequently a Hydropower Sustainability Assessment Protocol launched in 2011. From these and other efforts by large dam proponents emerged the discourse of “sustainable hydropower,” which sought to re-legitimize the industry by reinventing hydropower dams as sustainable development projects, rather than electricity infrastructure alone.
With large hydropower dams high on government and business actors’ agendas in Southeast Asia, this paper shows how the region has been a material testing ground of “sustainable hydropower” and central to the production of its discourse. Taking the case of Nam Theun 2 in particular, and the performative role it has played in producing ‘the sustainability’ that is required to make the sustainable hydropower discourse credible, as well as more recent projects and plans in Laos and Myanmar, we assess that the industry has mildly reformed rather than fundamentally transformed. This takes particular salience given that the proponents of “sustainable hydropower” are seeking to take leadership in defining hydropower’s future role within global-level debates on climate mitigation, including seeking to define criteria for eligibility to access Green Climate Funds. Throwing doubt on claims that processes of ecological modernization and “green economy” are actually occurring as claimed by some, we argue that hydropower as a global industry are part of the forces that may inhibit work towards a social-ecological transformation of society.
Cite this article as: Middleton, C. and Käkönen, M. (2017) "“Sustainable Hydropower” Discourse in the Politics of Climate Change in Southeast Asia" Paper presented at the European Association for Southeast Asian Studies (EURO-SEA) conference, University of Oxford, 16-18 August, 2017
 Center for Social Development Studies, Faculty of Political Science, Chulalongkorn University, Thailand. (Carl.Chulalongkorn@gmail.com)
 Department of Political and Economic Studies, University of Helsinki, Finland. (firstname.lastname@example.org)
CSDS Policy Brief
Carl Middleton, Naruemon Thabchumpon, Van Bawi Lian, and Orapan Pratomlek
Hakha cu Kawlram nitlak chaklei fing le tlang an tamnak Chin ramkulh khualipi a si. A liamcia kum tlawmpal ah Hakha khuachung khuasa an hung karh ciammam i dinti ah harnak a tong. Cu lio ah 2015 Chiapa thla dongh ah mincimhnak hun ton a si i minung a thong lengkai hmundang ah ṭhial hau in an um. Hi kan dothlatnak nih a langhter mi cu zeitluk in dah ti harnak hi taksa nunnak le zatlang khuasaknak aa pehtlaih: Khuapi pakhat a si i, minung an hung karh tik ah zeitin in dah inn hmun an samh ti le khua an ser ning, tihram ngeih mi hna pawngkam vialte thinghau le thinghlam nak nih ti a chuak tawn mi le hman tawn mi a tlawmter, cun ti pekning le sersiam ning kong ah tangka hman awk pek lonak hna nih ti kong ah i zat lonak le harnak a chuahpi.
Khuaram kan sersiam pah i ti kong biapi chiahnak nih ti harnak in i runven khawh a si, tiva horkuang sersiam ning, atu lio tawlrel cuahmah mi sipin ti peknak le hman ning kong ah laihlum khuasa hna le ti a hmang mi hna he i fonh in tiharnak in i runvennak timhtuahnak ngeihchih a herh. Cun, a biapi deuh rih mi cu ṭuanvo ngeitu le mizapi karlak ah i zumhnak, i bochannak le i ngamhtlaknak hna nih Hakha khuachung khuasa hna caah ti pek ning le ti hmuh ning ah hngatchan tlak le rinhchantlak a siter lai.
Author: Ning Liu, Carl Middleton
For further details of the article, visit Springer.
Illegal trade in chemicals and waste has brought severe negative impacts to human health and the environment. Fragmentation of multilateral environmental agreements (MEAs) has challenged implementation due to disconnects and inconsistencies between regimes that causes inefficiencies, overlapping norms, and duplication. Since the late 1990s, there have been proposals to cluster MEAs organizationally and functionally to create synergies between them. This paper evaluates whether the proposition on clustering of MEAs has worked in practice through an empirical case study of the “MEA Regional Enforcement Network (REN)”. MEA REN sought to cluster at the organizational and functional elements of the Basel Convention, the Rotterdam Convention, the Stockholm Convention, and the Montreal Protocol in South and Southeast Asia. Regarding organizational clustering, through co-organizing regional network meetings cross-MEA learning was enhanced and costs were saved, but co-locating regional offices proved more challenging. For the clustering of functional elements, MEA enforcement was ultimately strengthened through several joint initiatives across MEAs. However, not all functions could be clustered as anticipated, including data reporting due to incompatibility between the conventions and overall workloads. The paper concludes with recommendations for future environmental enforcement.
Hakha cu Kawlram nitlak chaklei fing le tlang an tamnak Chin ramkulh khualipi a si. A liamcia kum tlawmpal ah Hakha khuachung khuasa an hung karh ciammam i dinti ah harnak a tong. Cu lio ah 2015 Chiapa thla dongh ah mincimhnak hun ton a si i minung a thong lengkai hmundang ah ṭhial hau in um. Hi kan dothlatnak nih a langhter mi cu zeitluk in dah ti harnak hi taksa nunnak le zatlang khuasaknak aa pehtlaih: Khuapi pakhat a si i, minung an hung karh tik ah zeitin in dah inn hmun an samh ti le khua an ser ning, tihram ngeih mi hna pawngkam vialte thinghau le thinghlam nak nih ti a chuak tawn mi le hman tawn mi a tlawmter, cun ti pekning le sersiam ning kong ah tangka hman awk pek lonak hna nih ti kong ah i zat lonak le harnak a chuahpi. Khuaram kan sersiam pah i ti kong biapi chiahnak nih ti harnak in i runven khawh a si, tiva horkuang sersiam ning, atu lio tawlrel cuahmah mi sipin ti peknak le hman ning kong ah laihlum khuasa hna le ti a hmang mi hna he i fonh in tiharnak in i runvennak timhtuahnak ngeihchih a herh. Cun, a biapi deuh rih mi cu ṭuanvo ngeitu le mizapi karlak ah i zumhnak, i bochannak le i ngamhtlaknak hna nih Hakha khuachung khuasa hna caah ti pek ning le ti hmuh ning ah hngatchan tlak le rinhchantlak a siter lai.Read More
National Human Rights Institutions as Arenas of Transboundary Water Justice: Evaluating case studies from the Mekong River
By Carl Middleton
Presented at International Conference on National Human Rights Mechanisms in Southeast Asia: Challenges of Protection, Asia Center, Bangkok, Thailand, 13 - 14 July 2017
In Southeast Asia, major transboundary rivers such as the Mekong River are central to the food security, livelihoods and culture of millions of people. An increasingly extensive program of large hydropower dam construction is underway in Laos and Cambodia to meet domestic electricity demand and for power export to neighboring Thailand, Vietnam and China. How the concept of justice in water governance should be understood and applied to transboundary rivers is increasingly the subject of critical analysis, including with regard to human rights-based approaches.
This paper examines how claims for justice on the Mekong Rivers around large hydropower dams have been made and framed within “arenas of water justice” in Southeast Asia, with a particular focus on mechanisms for extra-territorial obligations (ETOs) and the role of national human rights institutions (NHRIs) in Thailand. The research draws upon in-depth interviews and participatory observation with community representatives, civil society groups, NHRIs, government agencies and the ASEAN Intergovernmental Commission on Human Rights (AICHR) conducted during 2015 and 2016.
This paper discusses the roles, opportunities and challenges for public interest law and national/ regional human rights institutions to protect and promote human rights on transboundary rivers. It also discusses the strategies communities and civil society undertake in seeking to ensure their human rights are respected, including through national and regional human rights institutions. Overall, the paper argues that in recent years NHRIs have become important arenas of water justice in Southeast Asia for transboundary rivers, although also face limitations in particular regarding their authority to investigate cross-border cases and ultimately to hold domestic actors to account.
Cite this article as: Middleton, C. (2017) "National Human Rights Institutions as Arenas of Transboundary Water Justice: Evaluating case studies from the Mekong River" Paper presented at the International Conference on National Human Rights Mechanisms in Southeast Asia: Challenges of Protection, Asia Center, Bangkok, Thailand, 13 - 14 July 2017
 Center for Social Development Studies, Faculty of Political Science, Chulalongkorn University, Thailand. (Carl.Chulalongkorn@gmail.com)
Hakha town is the capital of Chin State, Myanmar, located in the mountainous Northwest of the country. In recent years, the town’s population has faced growing water insecurity. Meanwhile, a major landslide in June 2015 compounded these challenges, when thousands of people had to be resettled. In this policy brief, we present our research that reveals how water insecurity is the product of both physical and social processes that are often inter-related, including: rising water demand due to a growing population without systematic town planning; deforestation of the surrounding watershed which has reduced water supply; and underinvestment in water supply infrastructure. Water security can be improved through improved town planning, watershed management, and creative approaches to urban water governance that would combine existing community-led water supply practices with plans now underway for a municipal system. Also important is greater transparency on existing plans, and public participation within them, to ensure equitable and reliable water access for all of Hakha’s residents.Read More