PHNOM PENH, Cambodia — This city of nearly two million people has many of the amenities of a modern metropolis — broadband Internet, automated teller machines and fancy restaurants, to name a few. But until this month, the capital of Cambodia had no public transportation system. To get around, residents had to inure themselves to perilous rides on motorcycle taxis or dust-smothered commutes in open three-wheeled tuk-tuks.
Now, in an experiment underwritten by the Japanese government, Phnom Penh is giving the relatively alien concept of public city buses a try. Ten buses are making their way up and down Monivong Boulevard, one of the city’s main thoroughfares, for a month to see if they catch on with Cambodians.
Egami Masahiko, representative of the Japan International Cooperation Agency, said that with Cambodia’s economy growing steadily and the streets of Phnom Penh choked with traffic, the timing was right. Mass transit, he said, is “fundamental infrastructure for a modern city.”
Since the buses began running Feb. 5, curious residents have been climbing aboard just for a test ride.
“We don’t know where we are going,” said one rider, a 13-year-old high school student, staring out the window one recent morning. It was her first time on a bus, she said, adding, “It’s kind of a new experience.”
Cambodia has plenty of private buses that ferry people across the countryside and connect provincial cities with the capital. But developing mass transit within Phnom Penh has until now ranked low on the priority list in a country where one-third of the population does not have running water.
The genocidal rule of the Khmer Rouge, which ended in 1979, damaged the country’s social fabric so badly that Cambodians came to assume that in many facets of life, including transportation, they were mostly on their own.
Some riders on the new Japanese-sponsored buses in the capital said that the lack of a public transportation system was emblematic of a country where government assistance was rare and civic-mindedness in short supply.
“People here don’t have a long vision,” said Khem Vannary, an actress on Cambodian television and an enthusiastic adopter of the bus experiment. “They don’t understand how a bus can improve their lives.”
Ms. Vannary lamented the unruliness she said she saw in the streets, where traffic laws are rarely enforced. She described Phnom Penh’s traffic as a free-for-all, comparing it to “children refusing to obey their parents,” and wondered whether the bus service would prove effective. An earlier experiment, sponsored by Japan in 2001, ended after several weeks.
The new experiment, relying on rented buses and temporary staff, appears to have rapidly won admirers. The buses are often packed at rush hour, and a supervisor of the line says that about 3,000 people are using them daily.
Ticket collectors wear shirts that say, “Take the bus for a better future of Phnom Penh.” And yet the immediate future of public transportation remains cloudy. The government has yet to set many of the specifics, including the starting date, for a permanent service that will follow if the one-month experiment is deemed a success.
Mr. Egami, the Japanese agency’s representative, emphasizes the importance of low fares to lure customers. He said he doubted that a public transportation system could be run at a profit, at least in the early stages. “It will require a subsidy,” he said.
That appeared to be at odds with the city government’s intentions. Long Dimanche, a spokesman for the Phnom Penh municipality, said that it had chosen a private company to run the buses and that “there will be no subsidy.” The contractor “has expertise,” Mr. Dimanche said, but he declined to identify the company.
“If everything works out,” he said, a permanent service will begin this year.
If it does, many city residents may need a quick primer on the ins and outs of bus riding.
Khay Sovanvisal, a supervisor on the experiment, said he was constantly fielding questions from curious people who wandered past his white canvas tent at one terminus of the route. He hands out about 500 brochures a day, listing the fare — 1,500 riels (less than 40 cents) — and declaring that it “is not too expensive.”
A woman hurried up to Mr. Sovanvisal, apologized for interrupting and asked what time her relative, who had boarded the bus on the other side of the city, would arrive at this end of the line.
“I can’t tell you that,” Mr. Sovanvisal said patiently. “The bus comes every 10 minutes. It depends which one she’s on.”
Despite established recognition of the many critical environmental and social tradeoffs associated with dams and reservoirs, global data sets describing their characteristics and geographical distribution have been largely incomplete. To addrress this shortcoming, the Global Water System Project (GWSP) initiiated an international effort to collate the existing dam and reservoir data sets with the aim of providing a single, geographically explicit and reliable database for the scientific community: The Global Reservoir and Dam Database (GRanD).
For the GRanD Technical Documentation click here.
For the GRanD Database click here.
This story was originally published on the CPWF-Mekong website.
CPWF launches the most accurate map to date of dams and reservoirs in the Mekong.
The CPWF-Mekong dams database provides the locations of every known commissioned, under construction and planned dam in the Mekong River Basin.
It should be noted that there is a mismatch between this map as seen in ‘Map’ and as seen in ‘Satellite’. Dam locations have been established in ‘Satellite’, and are correct as far as is known. Under the ‘Map’ view, dams are occasionally located on land, which is, of course, incorrect.
‘Unknown’ dams are mainly dams and reservoirs constructed for use in irrigation and/or water supply. We continue to determine names and technical specifications.
The accuracy of many of these data is often highly uncertain, not least because data for planned dams may change. Neither CPWF-Mekong nor any of its partners are responsible for the accuracy of these data.
If you notice any errors in the data, or have new information to add, please contact us.
For .jpg files of the map, please click on the following links:
MRB — whole Mekong River Basin
MRB 1 — southern portion of the Mekong River Basin
MRB 2 — middle portion of the Mekong River Basin
MRB 3 — upper portion of the Mekong River Basin
MRB 4 — zoomed in picture of northern Thailand, Laos, Vietnam, and southern Yunnan
MRB 5 — zoomed in picture of central to southern Laos and Vietnam, and Cambodia
This initiative has been funded by:
By ANDREW ZOLLI Published: November 2, 2012
FOR decades, people who concern themselves with the world’s “wicked problems” — interconnected issues like environmental degradation, poverty, food security and climate change — have marched together under the banner of “sustainability”: the idea that with the right mix of incentives, technology substitutions and social change, humanity might finally achieve a lasting equilibrium with our planet, and with one another.
It’s an alluring and moral vision, and in a year that has brought us the single hottest month in recorded American history (July), a Midwestern drought that plunged more than half the country into a state of emergency, a heat wave across the eastern part of the country powerful enough to melt the tarmac below jetliners in Washington and the ravages of Hurricane Sandy, it would seem a pressing one, too.
Yet today, precisely because the world is so increasingly out of balance, the sustainability regime is being quietly challenged, not from without, but from within. Among a growing number of scientists, social innovators, community leaders, nongovernmental organizations, philanthropies, governments and corporations, a new dialogue is emerging around a new idea, resilience: how to help vulnerable people, organizations and systems persist, perhaps even thrive, amid unforeseeable disruptions. Where sustainability aims to put the world back into balance, resilience looks for ways to manage in an imbalanced world.
It’s a broad-spectrum agenda that, at one end, seeks to imbue our communities, institutions and infrastructure with greater flexibility, intelligence and responsiveness to extreme events and, at the other, centers on bolstering people’s psychological and physiological capacity to deal with high-stress circumstances.
For example, “resilience thinking” is starting to shape how urban planners in big cities think about updating antiquated infrastructure, much of which is robust in the face of normal threats like equipment failures but — as was just demonstrated in the New York region — fragile in the face of unanticipated shocks like flooding, pandemics, terrorism or energy shortages.
Combating those kinds of disruptions isn’t just about building higher walls — it’s about accommodating the waves. For extreme weather events, that means developing the kinds of infrastructure more commonly associated with the Army: temporary bridges that can be “inflated” or positioned across rivers when tunnels flood, for example, or wireless “mesh” networks and electrical microgrids that can compensate for exploding transformers.
We’ll also need to use nature itself as a form of “soft” infrastructure. Along the Gulf Coast, civic leaders have begun to take seriously the restoration of the wetlands that serve as a vital buffer against hurricanes. A future New York may be ringed with them too, as it was centuries ago.
Hurricane Sandy hit New York hardest right where it was most recently redeveloped: Lower Manhattan, which should have been the least vulnerable part of the island. But it was rebuilt to be “sustainable,” not resilient, said Jonathan Rose, an urban planner and developer.
“After 9/11, Lower Manhattan contained the largest collection of LEED-certified, green buildings in the world,” he said, referring to a rating program for eco-friendly design. “But that was answering only part of problem. The buildings were designed to generate lower environmental impacts, but not to respond to the impacts of the environment” — for example, by having redundant power systems.
The resilience frame speaks not just to how buildings weather storms but to how people weather them, too. Here, psychologists, sociologists and neuroscientists are uncovering a wide array of factors that make you more or less resilient than the person next to you: the reach of your social networks, the quality of your close relationships, your access to resources, your genes and health, your beliefs and habits of mind.
Based on these insights, these researchers have developed training regimens, rooted in contemplative practice, that are already helping first responders, emergency-room physicians and soldiers better manage periods of extreme stress and diminish the rates and severity of post-traumatic stress that can follow. Researchers at Emory University have shown that similar practices can bolster the psychological and physiological resilience of children in foster care. These tools will have to find their way into wider circulation, as we better prepare populations for the mental, and not just physical, dimensions of disruption.
There’s a third domain where resilience will be found, and that’s in big data and mobile services. Already, the United States Geological Survey is testing a system that ties its seismographs to Twitter; when the system detects an earthquake, it automatically begins scanning the social media service for posts from the affected area about fires and damages.
Similar systems have been used to scan blog postings and international news reports for the first signs of pandemics like SARS. And “hacktivists” are exploring ways to extend the power of the 311 system to help people not only better connect to government services, but also self-organize in a crisis.
In a reversal of our stereotypes about the flow of innovation, many of the most important resilience tools will come to us from developing countries, which have long had to contend with large disruptions and limited budgets. In Kenya, Kilimo Salama, an insurance program for small-hold farmers, uses wireless weather sensors to help farmers protect themselves financially against climate volatility. In India, Husk Power Systems converts agricultural waste into locally generated electricity for off-grid villages. And around the world, a service called Ushahidi empowers communities around the world to crowdsource information during a crisis using their mobile phones.
None of these is a permanent solution, and none roots out the underlying problems they address. But each helps a vulnerable community contend with the shocks that, especially at the margins of a society, can be devastating. In lieu of master plans, these approaches offer diverse tools and platforms that enable greater self-reliance, cooperation and creativity before, during and after a crisis.
As wise as this all may sound, a shift from sustainability to resilience leaves many old-school environmentalists and social activists feeling uneasy, as it smacks of adaptation, a word that is still taboo in many quarters. If we adapt to unwanted change, the reasoning goes, we give a pass to those responsible for putting us in this mess in the first place, and we lose the moral authority to pressure them to stop. Better, they argue, to mitigate the risk at the source.
In a perfect world, that’s surely true, just as it’s also true that the cheapest response to a catastrophe is to prevent it in the first place. But in this world, vulnerable people are already being affected by disruption. They need practical, if imperfect, adaptations now, if they are ever to get the just and moral future they deserve tomorrow.
Unfortunately, the sustainability movement’s politics, not to mention its marketing, have led to a popular misunderstanding: that a perfect, stasis-under-glass equilibrium is achievable. But the world doesn’t work that way: it exists in a constant disequilibrium — trying, failing, adapting, learning and evolving in endless cycles. Indeed, it’s the failures, when properly understood, that create the context for learning and growth. That’s why some of the most resilient places are, paradoxically, also the places that regularly experience modest disruptions: they carry the shared memory that things can go wrong.
“Resilience” takes this as a given and is commensurately humble. It doesn’t propose a single, fixed future. It assumes we don’t know exactly how things will unfold, that we’ll be surprised, that we’ll make mistakes along the way. It’s also open to learning from the extraordinary and widespread resilience of the natural world, including its human inhabitants, something that, counterintuitively, many proponents of sustainability have ignored.
That doesn’t mean there aren’t genuine bad guys and bad ideas at work, or that there aren’t things we should do to mitigate our risks. But we also have to acknowledge that the holy war against boogeymen hasn’t worked and isn’t likely to anytime soon. In its place, we need approaches that are both more pragmatic and more politically inclusive — rolling with the waves, instead of trying to stop the ocean.
Andrew Zolli, the executive director of PopTech, is the author, with Ann Marie Healy, of “Resilience: Why Things Bounce Back.”
“A leading SEZ in the Kingdom of Cambodia and major industrial park in the vicinity of the capital: Phnom Penh.
Centrally located at the heart of the region’s east-west corridor, Phnom Penh SEZ offers your business a wide range of financial incentives – and your products easy and highly profitable access to the Japanese, US and European markets.”
June 14, 2013 Dave Tacon
The mighty Mekong, the lifeblood of many Asian nations, and holiday destination for an increasing number of Australians, is being heavily dammed. Can the river, and the people who depend on it, survive?
A boy stands on the banks of the Mekong River near the relocation site for a Lao village, which was moved to make way for the Xayaburi Dam. Photo: Dave Tacon
As the narrow longtail boat glides downstream from the dusty hamlet of Nong Kiew towards the golden temples of Luang Prabang, mirror images of jungle, vertical limestone cliffs and impossibly steep mountains shimmer in the waters of the Nam Ou River, a tributary of the mighty Mekong.
Endangered Asian elephants and Indochinese tigers still roam the upper reaches of the river within Phou Den Din National Protected Area, one of 20 national parks in Laos. This is the beauty that tourists, many Australians among them, come so far to see.
Yet this undeveloped region in northern Laos is about to be jolted into the industrial age. Three hours downriver from Nong Kiew, a scar of ochre-coloured dirt and rock stretches for kilometres: construction of the Nam Ou 2 Dam is steamrolling ahead.
”We started early this year and we’ll be finished in three years,” boasts a Chinese engineer dwarfed by a colossal concrete dam wall. Conversation is brought to an abrupt halt when his superior arrives. ”You have to leave,” he says. ”We don’t want pictures of this posted on Weibo [the Chinese version of Twitter].”
The 450 kilometre-long Nam Ou, one of the few Lao rivers traversable by boat for its entire length, will soon be severed seven times over by a 350-kilometre stretch of hydropower dams built and maintained by Chinese giant Sinohydro.
The Nam Ou 2 belongs to the first phase of the $1.95 billion project, which is expected to be operational by 2018. Details surrounding the project are scant. Even the final destination for the proposed 1146 megawatts of hydropower is unclear, although the Lao government claims the first three dams, Nam Ou 2, 5 and 6, will provide electricity for domestic consumption.
Details of the other dams have not been made public. Ultimately, the Phou Den Din National Protected Area will be partially inundated by the two northernmost dams, the Nam Ou 6 and 7, in violation of Sinohydro’s own environmental policy against development inside national parks. A pristine waterway and one of the last intact ecosystems in the region will change forever.
Despite concerns of environmentalists and objections by neighbouring Thailand, Cambodia and Vietnam, the tiny, landlocked nation of Laos is following China’s lead in its exploitation of the Mekong River and its tributaries.
China already has five hydropower dams operating and three more are planned for the upper reaches of the Mekong, the river that begins in the Tibetan Plateau and continues through China and five south-east Asian nations on its way to the South China Sea. Questions remain as to whether the river and those who depend on it for their livelihoods can survive.
”The government tells us that this will develop Laos,” says 65-year-old fisherman Thongsai Chanthalangsy, speaking at his village half an hour downstream from the Nam Ou 2 construction site. ”It’s not for the people,” he continues, ”the power will mostly be sold overseas. We can’t talk to the government. We have to follow what they say.”
Chanthalangsy has been advised that his home, which falls within the catchment of the planned Nam Ou 1 dam, will not be submerged, yet many other homes in his village will be.
”They will build more dams and the problems will get worse. When it’s finished there might not be enough water for our gardens and not enough fish to catch. There won’t be compensation. We’ll have to move.”
The Mekong and its tributaries are the front line of a massive development drive by Laos’ communist, one-party leadership to lift the nation from the ranks of Asia’s poorest countries.
Although hydroelectric power will bring much-needed revenue to the impoverished country, many fear that dams will cost dearly Laos, and all those for whom the Mekong is a lifeblood. In Laos, Thailand, Cambodia and Vietnam, more than 60 million people depend on the Mekong for food, income and transportation.
Ground zero for the Mekong is the gargantuan Xayaburi Dam, a project led by Thai construction firm Ch Karnchang. Dynamite and heavy machinery have already blasted, gouged and scraped away entire mountainsides above both banks of the swift-flowing waters about 30 kilometres from the provincial town of Xayabury.
Steep, winding, unmade roads carry a constant procession of trucks, earth movers, workers and occasionally armed soldiers to the expansive site. The $3.4 billion price tag of 810-metre-long and 32-metre-high Laos-Thai mega dam is being footed by a conglomerate of six Thai banks.
On its completion in 2019, around 95 per cent of the hydropower dam’s 1260 megawatts will be exported to Thailand. This is almost a third of the power generated by the 16 major dams of Australia’s Snowy Mountains Scheme, built over a period of 25 years to generate around 3700 megawatts.
Along with the immediate environmental impact of a project of such magnitude, hundreds of villagers have been resettled to make way for the dam.
At the new village, Natornatoryai, close to the construction site, teacher Khao Thevongsa, 28, is dissatisfied with the location, with its steep hills of barely arable land and the constant stream of traffic to the site.
She hopes that the dam may become a tourist attraction in its own right. ”We have to start from zero,” she says, ”but when the dam is finished maybe tourists will come here to see it and we can earn more money.” Almost every answer to a question begins with, ”We don’t have a choice.”
About 300 were first shifted to Natornatoryai, which is about 35 kilometres from the river. ”The old people didn’t want to move here,” says 63-year-old Khamkeo Daovong as her daughter-in-law and child play on her concrete floor. ”I was born near the river and so were my parents. Many people cried when they saw their new homes.”
Daovong complains that her house was unfinished when she moved in. The mismatched cinder-block and terracotta bricks were paid for out of her own pocket to keep out the dust and wind. Compensation in the form of rice and about $16.40 in cash per month dried up after one year instead of the promised three.
”I was given pigs and ducks to raise, but it’s very difficult to make money. I used to pan for gold, but now I just do nothing.”
According to non-government organisation International Rivers, about 25 families have already left the village to return to the river to fish, tend their river bank gardens and pan for gold.
For those who live in Laos, open opposition to the dam is unthinkable. The Lao regime has a history of ruthlessly silencing dissent.
On December 15 last year, Sombath Somphone, 62, a prominent campaigner for the environment and the rural poor, and a champion for sustainable development, was abducted from a police roadblock by two unidentified men in the nation’s capital, Vientiane.
Somphone, the 2005 recipient of the Ramon Magsaysay prize, often referred to as Asia’s Nobel prize, has not been seen or heard from since. The Laos government denies any involvement. The official explanation for his disappearance was a ”business dispute”, although the activist has no business interests.
The incident brought rare international attention to Laos, as then US Secretary of State Hillary Clinton and her successor, John Kerry, led calls for a thorough and transparent investigation into Somphone’s whereabouts and wellbeing.
International calls to the Laos government for action and information on Somphone remain unheeded. In a recent statement by New York-based watchdog Human Rights Watch, Asia director Brad Adams accused the Lao government of direct involvement in the activist’s disappearance.
”Lao authorities have not answered the simplest questions, such as why, if Sombath was kidnapped, did the police at the scene do nothing to protect him,” Adams said. ”The absence of any real investigation points to the government’s responsibility.”
The reasons for the activist’s disappearance are unclear. But Somphone’s abduction has worsened an already fearful climate in Laos’ environmental grassroots organisations.
Land rights and enforced disappearances aside, dams on the Mekong have serous ramifications far beyond the borders of Laos. The Xayaburi Dam is the first of 11 dams planned for the Lower Mekong River, nine of which are in Laos. Environmentalists have already blamed China’s five Mekong dams, as well as drought, for some of the lowest water levels seen on the river in 50 years. China denies it is responsible.
On top of providing crucial sediment for arable land downstream, the Mekong sustains the world’s largest inland fishery, with 877 species. According to conservation group Great Rivers Partnership, this supplies an industry worth between $3.84 billion and $6.89 billion.
Fish are a foundation of regional food security. In Cambodia, 80 per cent of the nation’s animal protein is provided by freshwater fisheries. Alarmingly, a study of the proposed 11 Lower Mekong hydropower dams by the International Centre of Environmental Management concluded that the dams would reduce fish numbers by 26 per cent to 42 per cent.
Regional famine is a worst-case scenario. Claims by the Lao government and Xayaburi dam officials that fish ladders will allow safe passage for migratory Mekong fish species have been met with great scepticism.
Organised dissent to the Xayaburi Dam has mainly come from Thailand. A flotilla of Thai fishermen and villagers who worked the Mekong travelled to Vientiane to protest during the Asia-Europe Meeting.
In April, delegates from eight Thai provinces on the Mekong were joined by protesters from Cambodia as they occupied the entrance to the headquarters of the dam’s construction company, Cr Karnchang, one of the dam’s financiers.
Although limited at present, opposition to dams on the Mekong may be about to rise rapidly as more dams are built and their impact becomes apparent. Beyond street and river protests, there are rumblings at the highest levels of government that threaten to become a diplomatic stoush.
Should the worst fears of environmentalists materialise, countries downstream from the dams stand to bear the brunt of any damage to the Mekong’s ecosystem. Although Vietnam and Cambodia have plans for their own hydropower projects, they have already objected to the Xayaburi Dam through the Mekong River Commission, of which Thailand and Laos are also members.
Both countries have argued that work on the Xayaburi Dam breaks an agreement forged in December 2010 that no dams would be built until studies on negative trans-boundary environmental impacts were completed.
Vietnam has called for a 10-year moratorium on all Mekong dams. Such concerns have been brushed aside by Lao Deputy Minister for Energy and Mines, Viraphonh Viravonghas, who claimed the extensive construction is merely ”preparatory work”.
”Laos has simply ignored the requests repeatedly made by Cambodia and Vietnam to study the trans-boundary impacts of the dam,” says Ame Trandem, south-east Asia program director at International Rivers.
”The Mekong is becoming the testing grounds for new technologies, which may prove to have disastrous effects. The entire future of the river’s ecosystem is at stake. The Xayaburi Dam is just the tip of the iceberg.”
Dave Tacon is an Australian journalist based in Shanghai.
When we think about the dams that are reshaping our planet and its waterways, the projects that come to mind are the massive ones, such as the Three Gorges Dam in central China (as captured in the gif above).
This is one of the largest of *many*. According to a new report, there are now 48,000 “large” dams (15 meters or taller) around the planet, which works out to a construction rate of one new dam every single day over the last 130 years. Over email, Owen Gaffney of the International Geosphere-Biosphere Programme in Stockholm said that another 1,600 are currently under construction. As journalist David Biello wrote on Twitter, “You know what says Anthropocene like almost nothing else? Water.”
Ours is a planet and a time deeply shaped by one species — us. Our waterways bend and bloat to meet our needs. Our atmosphere bears the emissions wrought by our fossil-fuel habit. Even in the depths of the remotest jungles,scientists are now finding our buildings. We are, of course, not the first species to have a dramatic effect on our planet — cyanobacteria beat us to that punch more than 2 billion years ago — but we are the first to do so knowingly, and that makes a world of difference.
Unfortunately, when compared to the rest of Asia, Cambodia near the bottom in nearly every ranking of Water-Related Disaster Resilience, Governance, and Urban Water Security
1. Water Security Framework of Five Interdependent Key Dimensions
2. National Water Security in Asia and the Pacic
3. Regional Water Security Index by Subregion (population-weighted)
4. National Water Security and Governance
5. Household Water Security by Subregion (population-weighted)
6. Access to Improved Water Supply—Piped and Non-Piped (%)
7. Access to Improved Sanitation (%)
8. Household Water Security and Per Capita Gross Domestic Product
9. Economic Water Security Index by Subregion (population-weighted)
10. Economic Water Security and Per Capita Gross Domestic Product
11. Urban Water Security by Subregion (population-weighted)
12. Water-Sensitive Cities Framework
13. Urban Water Security—Progress toward Water-Sensitive Cities
14. Urban Water Security and Per Capita Gross Domestic Product
15. Resilience to Water-related Disasters by Subregion (population-weighted)
16. National Water-Related Disaster Resilience Index Relative to Per Capita Gross Domestic Product
17. Water-Related Disaster Resilience Index
18. Water-Related Hazard Relative to Resilience
19. Water-Related Disaster Fatalities Relative to National Resilience
20. Estimated Mean Annual Water-Related Disaster Damages ($ per person)