POLICY BRIEF: “Rights and Rites:” Approaching the Issue of Justice for the Salween River

POLICY BRIEF: “Rights and Rites:” Approaching the Issue of Justice for the Salween River

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.

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POLICY BRIEF: Myanmar and China Dams: The Need for Strong Environmental Impact Assessment

POLICY BRIEF: Myanmar and China Dams: The Need for Strong Environmental Impact Assessment

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.

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POLICY BRIEF: Large Hydropower Projects in Ethnic Areas in Myanmar: Placing Community Participation and Gender Central to Decision-Making

POLICY BRIEF: Large Hydropower Projects in Ethnic Areas in Myanmar: Placing Community Participation and Gender Central to Decision-Making

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.

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CONFERENCE PAPER: “Sustainable Hydropower” Discourse in the Politics of Climate Change in Southeast Asia

“Sustainable Hydropower” Discourse in the Politics of Climate Change in Southeast Asia

By Carl Middleton[1] and Mira Käkönen[2]

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.

Download full paper click here.
Download Power Point of this paper click here.

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

[1] Center for Social Development Studies, Faculty of Political Science, Chulalongkorn University, Thailand. (Carl.Chulalongkorn@gmail.com)
[2] Department of Political and Economic Studies, University of Helsinki, Finland. (mira.kakonen@helsinki.fi)

POLICY BRIEF: Water Governance and Access to Water in Hakha Town, Chin State, Myanmar: Towards Addressing Water Insecurity [Chin language]

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Publication date:
July 2017

Publication:
CSDS Policy Brief

Author:
Carl Middleton, Naruemon Thabchumpon, Van Bawi Lian, and Orapan Pratomlek

Please see the Chin language policy brief here.
Please see the English language policy brief here.

Summary
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. 

JOURNAL ARTICLE: Regional Clustering of Chemicals and Waste Multilateral Environmental Agreements to Improve Enforcement

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Publication date:
August 2017

Publication:
Author: Ning Liu, Carl Middleton

For further details of the article, visit Springer.

 

 

Abstract:

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.

OPINION: Reasons for Water Scarcity in Hakha [In Chin language]

OPINION: Reasons for Water Scarcity in Hakha [In Chin language]

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.

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CONFERENCE PAPER: National Human Rights Institutions as Arenas of Transboundary Water Justice: Evaluating case studies from the Mekong River

National Human Rights Institutions as Arenas of Transboundary Water Justice: Evaluating case studies from the Mekong River

By Carl Middleton[1]

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.

Download full paper click here.
Download Power Point of this paper click here.

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

[1] Center for Social Development Studies, Faculty of Political Science, Chulalongkorn University, Thailand. (Carl.Chulalongkorn@gmail.com)

POLICY BRIEF: Water Governance and Access to Water in Hakha Town, Chin State, Myanmar: Towards Addressing Water Insecurity

Hakha thumbnail.jpg

Publication date:
July 2017

Publication:
CSDS Policy Brief

Author:
Carl Middleton, Naruemon Thabchumpon, Van Bawi Lian, and Orapan Pratomlek

Download the policy brief here. Visit our project page on water governance and access to water in Hakha town here.

Summary

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.

CONFERENCE PROCEEDINGS: Mekong, Salween and Red Rivers: Sharing Knowledge and Perspectives Across Borders

CONFERENCE PROCEEDINGS: Mekong, Salween and Red Rivers: Sharing Knowledge and Perspectives Across Borders

Water resources are inextricably linked to local livelihoods and wellbeing, agricultural production and food security, and local, national and the regional economies across the Mekong region. The Mekong, Red and Salween Rivers are all transboundary rivers that are subject to the dynamics of rapid change as the region increasingly integrates economically and socially. Whether development is inclusive, informed and accountable, and the rights and entitlements of marginalized communities recognized, remains a key challenge.

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BOOK CHAPTER: "Water and Rivers" in the Handbook of the Environment in Southeast Asia

BOOK CHAPTER: "Water and Rivers" in the Handbook of the Environment in Southeast Asia

By Carl Middleton

This chapter examines the transition from state-led hydrocracies to increasingly liberalized modes of water resources development in mainland Southeast Asia, with a focus on large hydropower dams on transboundary rivers. Access to, use of and control over water is highly politicized, and an increasingly diverse assemblage of public, private and civil society actors are involved in water governance.

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BOOK CHAPTER: Social Movement Resistance to Accumulation by Dispossession in Myanmar: A Case Study of the Ka Lone Htar Dam near the Dawei Special Economic Zone

BOOK CHAPTER: Social Movement Resistance to Accumulation by Dispossession in Myanmar: A Case Study of the Ka Lone Htar Dam near the Dawei Special Economic Zone

By Dr. Carl Middleton and Zaw Aung

The focus of this chapter is a water storage dam proposed at Ka Lone Htar village, located outside of the Dawei SEZ itself, intended to supply freshwater to the SEZ’s industries. If built, the dam would fully submerge the village consisting of 182 households, along with several thousand acres of plantations and natural forest. In response to the threat of dispossession and relocation, the Ka Lone Htar community members successfully mobilized and resisted the dam.

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BOOK CHAPTER: Arenas of Water Justice on Transboundary Rivers: A Case Study of the Xayaburi Dam, Laos

BOOK CHAPTER: Arenas of Water Justice on Transboundary Rivers: A Case Study of the Xayaburi Dam, Laos

By Carl Middleton and Ashley Pritchard

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, Cambodia and Myanmar to meet domestic electricity demand and for power export to neighboring Thailand, Vietnam and China. 

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JOURNAL ARTICLE: Watershed or Powershed?: A Critical Hydropolitics of the ‘Lancang-Mekong Cooperation Framework’

JOURNAL ARTICLE: Watershed or Powershed?: A Critical Hydropolitics of the ‘Lancang-Mekong Cooperation Framework’

By Dr. Carl Middleton and Dr. Jeremy Allouche

The countries sharing the Lancang-Mekong River are entering a new era of hydropolitics with a growing number of hydropower dams throughout the basin. Three ‘powersheds’, conceptualised as physical, institutional and political constructs that connect dams to major power markets in China, Thailand and Vietnam, are transforming the nature-society relations of the watershed. 

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CONFERENCE PAPER: Private Dams, Public Interest in mainland Southeast Asia

Private Dams, Public Interest in mainland Southeast Asia: Hydropower Governance in a Beyond-Aid Political Economy

By Carl Middleton

Presented at Trans-Regional and -National Studies of Southeast Asia (TRaNS) Conference on: Exploring 'beyond aid' agenda through Southeast Asia's rapidly changing development landscape, Sogang Institute for East Asian Studies, 27-28 May 2016

The paper shows how whilst Build Operate Transfer (BOT) hydropower dams, framed under the concept of Public Private Partnerships (PPP), were first introduced into mainland Southeast Asia by the International Financial Institutions (IFIs) and Western donors, as geopolitical and domestic politics of the region has shifted, the model is now utilized by new or “non-traditional” aid providers, including from China, Thailand and Vietnam. However, the concept of BOT is not transferred wholesale. The paper argues that in contrast to the earlier claims of the IFIs and Western donors that BOT hydropower projects could also be vehicles of direct poverty reduction and ‘development’, the “non-traditional” aid providers view these projects principally as economic infrastructure; if a claim for poverty reduction exists at all, then it is enfolded within broader objectives of national or regional economic growth. Thus, it will be argued that the “public interest” has largely been reduced to the interest of the private developers.

Download full paper click here.

Cite this article as: Middleton, C. (2016) “Private Dams, Public Interest in mainland Southeast Asia: Hydropower Governance in a Beyond-Aid Political Economy” Paper presented at Trans-Regional and -National Studies of Southeast Asia (TRaNS) Conference on: Exploring 'beyond aid' agenda through Southeast Asia's rapidly changing development landscape, Sogang Institute for East Asian Studies, 27-28 May 2016

 

JOURNAL ARTICLE: Improvements To Enforcement of Multilateral Environmental Agreements To Control International Shipments of Chemicals And Wastes

JOURNAL ARTICLE: Improvements To Enforcement of Multilateral Environmental Agreements To Control International Shipments of Chemicals And Wastes

By Liu Ning, Vira Somboon, Surichai Wun’gaeo, Carl Middleton, Charit Tingsabadh and Sangchan Limjirakan.

This article discusses how and why law enforcement operations can help countries to implement chemical and waste-related multilateral environmental agreements in a more efficient and effective way. The research explores key barriers and factors for organising law enforcement operations, and recommends methods to improve law enforcement operations to address illegal trade in hazardous waste and harmful chemicals.

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