›February 20, 2014 // By ECSP Staff
In the sleepy northern Thai border town of Huay Luk, a community leader, Pornsawan Boontun, still remembers the day when villagers netted a Mekong giant catfish more than a decade ago. The fish weighed 615 pounds, and it surprised everyone since the elusive species has never been common in this stretch of river.
In the latter half of last century, Thailand and other East Asian countries successfully capitalized on shifts in their age structures to gain a boost in economic productivity, a phenomenon known as the demographic dividend. Today, despite the hitherto sluggish pace of Africa’s demographic transition, scholars and politicians remain hopeful that similar changes on the continent may lead to faster development in coming decades. [Video Below]
The demographic dividend – the idea that a decline from high to low rates of population growth can lead to dramatic economic gains – has become something of a buzzword in development circles. Sub-Saharan Africa holds the single largest block of remaining high fertility countries and while headlines tend towards the dramatic about demographic shifts there, less column space has been devoted to examining the underlying issues causing these shifts or the other changes that will be necessary for countries to benefit from them.
Water, energy, and food – this “nexus” of interrelated resource issues continues to garner attention from analysts, policymakers, and the media. Over the next four decades global population is projected to increase to about 9.6 billion and, worldwide, demand for water is projected to increase 55 percent; energy, 80 percent; and food, 60 percent. In a new video about the first of a series of workshops on this nexus, the International Union for Conservation on Nature and the International Water Association explain how they are working to bring together private and public sector water infrastructure experts from across Africa and the world to build partnerships and create some consensus on a “nexus-based approach” to managing scarce resources.
›April 4, 2013 // By ECSP Staff
Thailand often is held up as a model of success for its efforts in family planning, but it’s amazing how quickly the country has transformed from rural and very poor to the modern economic powerhouse it is today in a matter of a few decades. Yet Dr. Kosit Panpiemras, former minister of finance and industry of Thailand, laid out the story of Thailand’s success in four succinct points. It wasn’t easy for Thailand to accomplish its goals, but the policies and investments the country made were strategic and targeted.
In 2011, a record 34 billion cubic tons of carbon dioxide were emitted from man-made sources. Half the emitted CO2 stays in the atmosphere, about a quarter is absorbed on land (as trees grow, for example), and the remainder is absorbed by the ocean. Unsurprisingly, this incredible amount of carbon dioxide significantly changes the ocean environment. Over time, increased absorption of carbon dioxide in the oceans has led to ocean acidification, and overall warming has also led to warming of ocean waters – both changes impact marine ecosystems and the people who rely on them.
Specifically attributing a particular weather event to climate change has been difficult – as one famous analogy goes, it’s like determining which of Mark McGwire’s home runs were because of steroids and which weren’t. But climate attribution science is slowly becoming more accurate and accepted. In “Explaining Extreme Events of 2011 From a Climate Perspective,” a new study appearing in July’s Bulletin of the American Meteorological Society, editors Thomas C. Peterson, Peter A. Stott, and Stephanie Herring provide a review of six extreme weather events from last year and offer “some illustrations of a range of possible methodological approaches” to the process of attribution. Among their conclusions, the editors note that, due to climate change, the extreme heat and drought that suffocated Texas in 2011 was 20 times more likely to occur than 40 years earlier. However, the devastating floods that swept across Thailand last year are blamed on a number of other non-climatic factors.
›April 25, 2012 // By ECSP StaffThe original version of this article, by Richard Cronin, appeared in World Politics Review.
Two decades after the Paris Peace Accord that ended the proxy war in Cambodia, the Mekong Basin has re-emerged as a region of global significance. The rapid infrastructure-led integration of a region some call “Asia’s last frontier” has created tensions between and among China and its five southern neighbors – Cambodia, Laos, Myanmar, Thailand, and Vietnam. Both expanded regional cooperation as well as increased competition for access to the rich resources of the once war-torn region have created serious environmental degradation while endangering food security and other dimensions of human security and even regional stability.
China’s seemingly insatiable demand for raw materials and tropical commodities has made it a fast-growing market for several Mekong countries and an increasingly important regional investor. Economic integration has been boosted by a multibillion dollar network of all-weather roads, bridges, dams, and power lines largely financed by the Asian Development Bank (ADB) that is linking the countries of the Lower Mekong to each other and to China. To date, the ADB’s Greater Mekong Subregion (GMS) cooperative development program has primarily benefited large population centers outside the basin proper in China, Thailand, and Vietnam. Unfortunately, the same infrastructure that speeds the flow of people and goods to urban centers also facilitates the environmentally unsustainable exploitation of the forests, minerals, water resources, and fisheries that are still the primary source of food and livelihoods to millions of the Mekong’s poorest inhabitants.
No aspect of China’s fast-growing role and influence in the Mekong region is more evident and more problematic than its drive to harness the huge hydroelectric potential of the Upper Mekong through the construction of a massive cascade of eight large- to mega-sized dams on the mainstream of the river in Yunnan Province. The recently completed Xiaowan dam, the fourth in the series, will mainly be used to send electricity to the factories and cities of Guangdong Province, its coastal export manufacturing base some 1,400 kilometers away. China’s Yunnan cascade will have enough operational storage capacity to augment the dry season flow at the border with Myanmar and Laos by 40-70 percent, both to maintain maximum electricity output and facilitate navigation on the river downstream as far as northern Laos for boats of up to 500 tons.
Continue reading in World Politics Review.
Photo Credit: “Xiaowan Dam Site,” courtesy of International Rivers.
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