Washington University Students for International Collaboration on the Environment

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Happy New Year!

Happy New Year guys!!! Remember these classic and sweet moments? We really miss you and those conference days. We shall not end these communications. Please still email your partners and keep blogging whatever personal thoughts or feelings on the website. WUSICE is your home! 2011 will be a more exciting year, and we have some new ambitions and hopes. We want you to still be part of us, share with us your thoughts, ideas, and insights, and join us in different projects and collaborations.

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Does any one have any ideas of where we can upload all these many photos to lol?
Big thanks to Kelsey who designed this wusice new year card. Hope it will bring us luck!
Summer

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Update

Lots of thanks to Summer for posting her experiences at Cancun!!! Please comment on her post (below).

Also, I hope everyone received the lovely e-mail from Richard Ling Yunzhi, wishing all of WUSICE and delegates a Merry Christmas and a Happy New Year! Keep reaching out to each other – stay connected.

In environmental policy news:

The Paradox of Efficiency

By Bjørn Lomborg

Project Syndicate, December 13, 2010

CREDIT: Clean Energy Resource Teams (CC).

Several thousand officials from 194 countries just gathered in Cancún, Mexico, for yet another global climate summit. Dissatisfied with the pace of climate diplomacy, many individuals are now wondering what they can do about climate change on their own.

For years now, climate activists from Al Gore to Leonardo DiCaprio have argued that individual actions like driving more economical cars and using more efficient light bulbs are a crucial element in the effort to address global warming. The United Nations’ climate panel and the International Energy Agency both echo this sentiment, insisting that higher energy efficiency could reduce energy consumption by up to 30 percent—making improved efficiency an effective remedy for climate change. But is this really true?

Here’s something to think about. Back in the early 1970s, the average American expended roughly 70 million British thermal units per year to heat, cool, and power his or her home. Since then, of course, we have made great strides in energy efficiency. As the Washington Post recently reported, dishwashers now use 45 percent less power than they did two decades ago, and refrigerators 51 percent less. So how much energy do Americans use in their homes today? On a per capita basis, the figure is roughly what it was 40 years ago: 70 million BTUs.

This surprising lack of change is the result of something economists call the “rebound effect.” It’s a phenomenon familiar to urban planners, who long ago discovered that building more roads doesn’t ease traffic jams—it merely encourages more people to get in their cars and drive.

The underlying principle is a decidedly counterintuitive fact of life. You might think that learning to use something more efficiently will result in your using less of it, but the opposite is true: the more efficient we get at using something, the more of it we are likely to use. Efficiency doesn’t reduce consumption; it increases it.

The Breakthrough Institute recently highlighted on its blog some startling—and important—research findings along these lines, published in August in the Journal of Physics by energy economist Harry Saunders and four colleagues from the U.S. Department of Energy’s Sandia National Laboratories. As Saunders noted in a summary on the blog, he and his colleagues, drawing on “300 years of evidence,” found that, “as lighting becomes more energy efficient, and thus cheaper, we use ever-more of it.”

For this reason, the proportion of resources that we expend on lighting has remained virtually unchanged for the past three centuries, at about 0.72 percent of gross domestic product. As Saunders and his colleagues observe in their journal article, “This was the case in the UK in 1700, is the case in the undeveloped world not on grid electricity in modern times, and is the case for the developed world in modern times using the most advanced lighting technologies.”

The conclusion that Saunders and his co-authors draw from this is both surprising and hard to dispute: Rather than shrinking our electricity use, the introduction of ever more efficient lighting technologies is much more likely to lead to “massive … growth in the consumption of light.”

It’s difficult to overstate what these findings mean for climate policy. In a nutshell, they tell us that, while increasing energy efficiency is undoubtedly a good thing, it is most assuredly not a remedy for global warming. Or, as Saunders puts it, “energy efficiency may be a net positive in increasing economic productivity and growth, but should not be relied upon as a way to reduce energy consumption and thus greenhouse gas emissions.”

This is not an argument that should encourage anyone to go out and buy a Hummer. But we shouldn’t fool ourselves into thinking that swapping our current car for a Prius, or replacing our incandescent lights with energy-efficient fluorescent bulbs, will strike a meaningful blow against climate change. The real fix to this problem will come when governments focus on research and development aimed at boosting the proportion of green energy sources in overall consumption.

It may be reassuring to believe there are cheap and easy things we can do as individuals to stop global warming, or that the answer is to continue chasing a chimerical global agreement on carbon cuts, as in Cancún. But the real action that we can take is to press our politicians to put smarter ideas on the table.

© 2010 Project Syndicate. Republished with kind permission.

Read More: Economy, Energy, Environment, Innovation, Science, Technology, Transportation, Global

Have a good holiday,
Anne


ENVIRONMENT AND ARTS?

This is the NGO party at Cancun. It is usually held on the last night of the first conference week; different NGO members and parties usually come to this party because they know this is gonna be awesome. And IT WAS. It has been the best party I have ever experienced. The DJ was great and NO people were sober. The best part was when the DJs gave every one a candle and we helped one another to light it up. Then the song “n Bohemian Rhapsody” was played. Every one knew it and every one was singing. “Mama, life has just begun, but now I have to throw it all away…Mama, didn’t mean to make you cry, if I do not come back this time tomorrow, carry on, carry on, as if nothing really matters…” It was so beautiful. It was so powerful. Every one was so motivated to sing, flying our candles and swaying with the music, together with the huge crowd. I was nearly made to cry.
I was hoping so much you were there guys; how I want to share this emotion with you that we all belong to mother earth and how much we are related together. I feel lonely establishing all the connections and finding ways to get our voice out at COP16 many times, and it was really stressful when I didn’t know if I would really successfully deliver the MOU. WUSICE has been part of my life and the MOU held so much gravity on my hands. Guys I really want to experience all of these with you together. Luckily Sierra Student Club selected me as the student delegate for this year; but I will work hard with Jeremy to get WUSICE accredited for UNFCCC so that you will get the chances to go next year too.

This NGO part connected everybody all together. It strikes me again that music is such a powerful medium it can touch people’s soul and make their hearts vibrate in the same frequency. I echo so much with Jeremy’s idea of having a concert and Karen’s words that ART is something that connect people. I can’t agree more with it. For environment, we should express we are not just tree huggers. We protect the environment for ourselves. Environment is something that is so broad that it can be the theme that relates people from different part of the world, because we were all born from it, we are fed on it and we grow up from it. People feel the impact of love, truth, and nobility while they learn to appreciate the nature. Look at the skies, the trees and the blowing of the wind! Did they touch your heart today? Music connects us with nature, and it connects us; it is important to let people feel the beauty of nature and feel the love with the connectedness among them with the help of music. It is a way to unify people. Wooh..nature is my religion.

This experience echoes when I was talking to the only NGO that relates environment and arts together.
They are with the organization called Artists’ Project Earth, founded in UK. They invite singers to concerts and record songs, and then they produce albums which can be sold for money. They donate all the money to different environmental projects that could help cleaning up pollution, promoting recycling or even photojournalism that records the environmental changes. It inspired me a lot, since it was the only place at COP16 where I found the connection between arts and environment.
While we were chatting, we talked about some possible changes that are needed to reform the UNFCCC. Is it possible or necessary to make the process more humane? The WUSICE conference we had was a success, not only due to the structure and planning it had, but also because the delegates had the chances to bond and get to learn about each other. The personal connections contribute to further communications and mutual understanding, which played an important role later in helping the delegates to produce a joint agreement.
Therefore, is there anyway to foster this kind of mutual dialogs and understanding between the U.N. delegates at the conference? Should some of the processes be more interactive and personal? Can music be part of the conference? These are just some of my innovative thoughts, although they sound ridiculous at this moment.
But I do think that we students can try different solutions and see how to make things work better. We are younger, we are more inventive, and we are passionate. We are not afraid of failures. We can provide solutions to the delegations, so can we provide suggestions to UN and UNFCCC. Why not?


Individuals that make a difference

Aya IMAI is the girl from Doshisha University, Japan. She is the Head Office Student Representative of the student group WSEN(World Students Environmental Network) which holds annual environmental conferences in different countries including Germany, UK, etc. The students come together to talk about innovative sustainable solutions and get educated on climate change issues.
It is interesting to see how these students are all doing the similar things as we do in different parts of the world. WE ARE NOT ALONE.

From left to right: Liam from Canada, Katy from Mexico and Luana from Cook Island

The girl on the right is Luana, the student delegate from Cook Island. Cook Island is a beautiful beautiful pacific island that is affected by climate change. Do you remember at MOCK COP16, you guys argued for a long long time for how to write the text about LDCs (least developed countries) and small pacidic islands? How to make the agreement fair for them? How much sacrifice or compensation should we make? I introduced our conference to her and what the delegates agreed upon, and I said it would be so cool if we can have her presence at the conference. Her voice and input will be so important and interesting for us to hear about. Later that day she sent me a document, a statement from all the pacific islands. It indicates that the global temperature increase should be limited to less than 1.5 degree Celsius in order to save the islands. It is the goal 350.org is advocating also. It was not written on the two texts passed in the end, so we still have a long way to fight for.

Maira Niode is from Jakarta, Indonesia. She is 16 years old but is already a party member of Indonesia UNFCCC delegations. (Look at her pink badge!) So we can see many youths in some countries are very active. With the passage of Article Six under UNFCCC (Article Six emphasizes the educational part of climate negotiation, and it approves that the government officials can bring youth delegates to the COP meetings.) Therefore Fudan guys and Wash Uers, please notice the fact that youths are playing a more important role in UN process. There are more ways to get our voice heard. Pressure the government but also collaborate with it! In U.S. and China, the national delegations are pretty exclusive from the youths; there are no planned agenda for the negotiators to meet with their youth at COP16, and it was so hard for us to find chances to meet with them. In contrast, Australia, Indonesia and New Zealand’s governments are more open and flexible with youths from their countries. I do believe there should a special section at COP where national delegations are required and scheduled to meet with the youth delegates.

There is another U.S.-China Youth Climate Exchange program going on at Cancun and I was part of it. Many organizations including SustainUS, CY-CAN(China Youth Climate Action Network), SSC(Sierra Student Coalition), CCN(Climate Cascade Network) and Golden bridges participated in this project. During COP16, two workshops and one shared action were organized. The speakers are mainly youth delegates and the form of workshops was more interactive and casual, so people bonded very well. I launched the WUSICE MOU at the first workshop. It was exciting to see the same kind of exchange and communications going on between U.S. and China youths, but it was also a pity that you guys could not attend and share your insights and experience. They were very curious about the MOCK COP16 at WUSICE conference held, and many are interested in the idea of a MOCK COP17 next year. A website is just established, and I encourage you to take a look at http://www.cuyce.org/. It would be great to let you guys get to know these people who share the same passions and experiences to further the U.S.-China youth communications.


Blog series 1—MOU submission at Cancun COP16

Summer Jiakun Zhao
Hello guys! Again! These series of blogs record the things I experienced, the people I met and the thoughts I had in Cancun. I apologize for putting these up this late as I was too overwhelmed while I was there and was flooded with finals after I came back. But here they are! I tried to be as detailed as possible so even if I cannot talk to you in person, you might have an idea of what was going on in Cancun. I will continue to post on our blogs.

Firstly let me talk about the submission of MOU.

At COP16, I was totally overwhelmed with so many things going on at the same time. Every one thinks what they do is unique, and one’s voice is always diluted by all kinds of NGO events, side events and the huge plenary sessions. I have thought for a thousand times how to deliver the students’ voices, and the best scenario of presenting this MOU slipped past my head—it would be so awesome if I could bring these two chief delegations together to accept this MOU. But it was entirely impossible since I might not even have a chance to meet either of them at all.

However, it is always good to believe. It was interesting how everything happened before the two chief negotiators from U.S. and China signed on the Memorandum of Understanding created by the student delegates at the WUSICE U.S.-China Undergraduate Conference on Climate Change and Sustainability held at Washington University in St. Louis.

The night before I set up a quick appointment with Mr. Su Wei, the chief climate negotiator for China. With the help from a Chinese officer, we were able to meet outside Maya, the COP negotiation room. (The whole process was very complicated so I will leave this part out) John Delurey, our Wash U delegate came to Cancun and joined me in presenting the MOU to Su Wei. When Su Wei came out, I explained to him in Chinese the U.S.-China conference WUSICE put up together and how the Chinese and American student delegates produced the MOU during the final Mock Cop-16 event. Then John talked to him in English, saying that only after the conference did he realize there are so many difficulties and barriers in the climate change negotiations, especially because he was representing China during the conference; however, there were still ways to find solutions and compromises. Su Wei was very happy listening to what he said, and he talked in English, saying that there ARE real difficulties existing between these two countries, and he was very delighted to see that students had begun such dialogs and mutual communications.
Then he signed on the MOU with the comments “You guys are really doing great things. Keep doing.”

Then the dramatical thing happened. While we were taking pictures, Jonathan Pershing passed by. While Pershing was laughing and making fun of Su Wei meeting with two students, Su Wei began to shout at Pershing: “Jonathan! Jonathan come!” Pershing did not take it seriously and kept walking by. I met with Pershing at one of his briefings the other night and already submitted the MOU to him, so I kind of know him. Instinctively, I jumped out and chased after Pershing, crying: “Jonathan, Jonathan!” Then he turned back and walked to us.

Then it is how this picture was taken. Su Wei passed the MOU and a pen to Pershing, saying “I signed it. You should sign it too!” Jonathan was a little bit hesitant and joked with him: “Are you sure? Is it the legally binding agreement?” Every one was laughing while Pershing wrote on the MOU: “Only through dialogues can we find solutions.” Then we took a picture together, which marked the moment when the two national negotiators accepted the document created by the students from U.S. and China, agreeing to combat climate change.

Back to the night at Pershing’s briefing: I got a chance to raise a question for him. “There are many U.S. and China youth collaborations going on both at COP16 and back at our school. Back in St. Louis, WUSICE held a U.S.-China Conference….where U.S. and Chinese students came together and produced the MOU, which summarizes their agreements on topics like MRVs and Financing. I would love to submit it to you after the briefing. We know that mutual understandings and trust are very important for international negotiations. So my question is that as China has already made compromises on promoting transparency, would America also remove the barriers to aspire to reach at a binding agreement?”

He responded that he would love to take the MOU and read it and give some feedbacks. He also mentioned that his daughter is attending school in Chicago and was also interested in environmental policy issues. Then he answered the question that actually he and Su Wei met a lot outside the conference centers. They had teas and meetings frequently and they talked about a broad realm of issues. They have sought cooperation in different areas and things are very complicated between these two countries. “But it is not like if you solve this part, then the entire problem is fixed.” Well……Although he did not hit directly on the question I was asking, I am satisfied already by the fact that he would be willing to accept the students’ voice and really READ it.

Now that they both signed on the document, I bet they would READ this masterpiece between our awesome delegates from Fudan and Wash U! More importantly, we let them know that we students had begun such dialogs and collaborations; we warned them that if they do not take actions, we would replace them and do the right things!

Feng Gao(the gentleman who stands on my left) has been the UNFCCC secretariat of Legal Affairs for five years. His opinions are very insightful for how things work inside the UN regime, so it was very lucky I got to talk to him and submit the MOU to him.(His signature also appears on the cover of our MOU.) I would like to share some of his insights with you here.

While we were talking, he expressed his frustrations for the progress of the international negotiations. The U.N. negotiations had not been very effective or successful, so in the future maybe more and more countries would drop off from the negotiations. He said that the process is too slow and America is the biggest obstacle for current international climate negotiation. Other developing countries would not support the agreement unless developed countries take the lead, but America is too reluctant in pushing for a legally binding agreement. It is not something that Jonathan Pershing could change by himself; if the American government, the people in the Congress and the President himself do not support any forms of Kyoto Protocol, then there is little Pershing could do. He is the executive but not the ultimate decision maker. The main problem lies in America, America itself. Over fifty percent of Republicans do not believe in climate change; then what change will the current congress make? However, the congress reacts to public perception; if the public shows enough pressure to combat climate change, the congress will take actions because it does not want to lose public support. So mobilizing civilian movements internally towards the government is very important. BUT HOW? How to get people to care about the environment? How can people believe there IS climate change? How to get the public as passionate as we do to improve our environment?
Climate change is hard to visualize, feel or relate to, and if I don’t keep educating myself about it or exposing myself to climate knowledge or news, sometimes I lose momentum of keeping on my work to influence others…well I am a little bit distracted here…but please comment if you have any ideas.
At the end of the semester WUSICE comes up with some new ideas, one of which is to connect with student from all over the world and ask them to provide some personal stories. Maybe making climate change more personal is one way to solve the problem.
But anyways, back to COP16. The result of COP16 was kind of inspiring. Except for Bolivia, all other countries agreed on the KP (Kyoto Protocol) text and LCA (Long-term Collaboration) text.
• China made big compromises on MRVs and transparency
• Developing and developed countries improve reporting with reports every 2 years
• Developed countries provide details on the financial, technical and capacity-building support to developing counties
• create a “Green Climate Fund” and so on.
But there are definitely problems
• What is the amount of the Fund?
• What is the limit target for CO2 emissions?
• Who will monitor the Climate Fund? World Bank?—developing countries won’t agree.
• Controversy for REDD?
These are the questions unsettled, and there are way more problems.

However, these two texts at least saved UNFCCC. It did give people hope that international agreement can happen and U.N. has not come to a complete deadlock. But we also know, clearly, that this outcome cannot save the planet.


How do you choose between economic development and the environment? Don’t ask Myanmar…

An Industrial Project That Could Change Myanmar

By THE INTERNATIONAL HERALD TRIBUNE

DAWEI, MYANMAR — The vast, pristine stretch of coastline here is almost deserted, save for fishermen hauling their bountiful catches onto white-sand beaches. But a deal signed this month would transform these placid waters into a seaport for giant cargo ships. Cashew nut groves and rice fields would be plowed under and replaced with a warren of factories, refineries and an expansive coal-burning power plant.

Myanmar, which is run by a repressive military regime that controls both economic and political life, recently captured the world’s attention with its first elections in two decades and the release of Daw Aung San Suu Kyi, the country’s leading dissident, from house arrest.

But the Dawei Development Project, as it is known, could have as much of an impact on Myanmar’s future as the decades-old political chess games between the military and its opponents — and perhaps more.

The deal, signed Nov. 2, calls for what would be by far the largest industrial area in Myanmar, which is also known as Burma. In an impoverished, relatively cloistered country where malnourishment is widespread, the factories and refineries could provide jobs on an unprecedented scale, not unlike the special economic zones that China and Vietnam set up in recent decades.

“We need tons of workers,” said Premchai Karnasuta, the president of Italian-Thai Development, a conglomerate based in Bangkok that was awarded the contract after years of negotiations and surveys of the area. “We will mobilize millions of Burmese.”

A work force on that scale seems years away; engineers at the company speak of hiring tens of thousands of people over the first five years of construction. But analysts see the project as a landmark development for the region in many other ways.

Foreign companies building plants here would be freed from the restraints of increasingly strict antipollution laws elsewhere in the region. For Thailand, the project would be a cheap and convenient way to export its dirty refineries across the border.

“Some industries are not suitable to be located in Thailand,” Abhisit Vejjajiva, the Thai prime minister, said in explaining the project to viewers of his weekly television address recently. “This is why they decided to set up there,” he said, referring to Dawei.

The project is also crucial for geo-strategic reasons: Construction of a deep-sea port would create a shortcut between Europe and Indochina. Companies in Thailand and the fast-growing economies of Vietnam and Cambodia could save fuel and time by bypassing the long journey through the Strait of Malacca, a detour of several thousand kilometers.

The project has backing at the highest levels of both the Thai and Myanmar governments, including Myanmar’s dictator, Senior Gen. Than Shwe, who appears to be treating it as an experiment in opening the largely state-controlled economy.

“Than Shwe said he wanted this project to be like the Shenzhen economic zone,” Mr. Premchai said at a news conference this month, referring to the city where southern China’s industrial transformation began three decades ago.

Virgin territory

Italian-Thai has been awarded a huge chunk of territory for the project — 250 square kilometers, or about 97 square miles, more than four times the size of Manhattan. There are also plans to develop hotels and resorts further down Myanmar’s wild and sparsely populated southern coast, which extends 500 kilometers, or about 300 miles, south.

The coastline here is a rare blank slate in an otherwise crowded part of the world. In addition to the power plant, the company is planning a steel mill, an oil refinery, a petrochemical complex, a shipbuilding yard, a fertilizer factory and many other facilities.

Workers have already broken ground — construction on the road to Thailand is under way — but there remains the possibility that the project will founder. Ethnic rebels inhabit the hills around the site, though they have been relatively quiet in recent years.

Sean Turnell, an expert on the Burmese economy at Macquarie University in Sydney, said he was optimistic about the project’s prospects, provided that Italian-Thai can follow through with financing and that the Myanmar government does not interfere.

“Will the government really leave this alone? In the past they haven’t been able to resist the temptation,” Mr. Turnell said.

Italian-Thai — which gets its name from a partnership formed five decades ago between an Italian engineer and a Thai medical doctor — has been given exemptions from import duties and a 75-year concession to build and operate the heavy-industrial part of the project, as well as a 40-year concession for light industry, like garment factories. After that, according to the deal, the concession can be extended, or control can revert to the Myanmar government.

The company estimates that infrastructure for the project will cost $8 billion; it says it has secured the financing, from a private bank that it would not name. Other companies, including the Thai petrochemical giant PTT, have expressed interest but have been ultimately noncommittal.

One of the largest Thai banks, Kasikorn, said it would not offer financing for projects in Myanmar because of “political risk.”

Anan Amarapala, vice president of the marine division of Italian-Thai, said Chinese companies had no such fears. “Japanese, Korean and Chinese companies have been flying in nonstop to meet us,” he said in an interview.

The Thai government, for its part, is highly supportive of the project. It has been under consideration since the late 1990s, and all Thai governments, before and after the 2006 military coup, have supported it — a rare example of unanimity across Thailand’s fractured political landscape.

In that sense, the Dawei project highlights the ineffectiveness of economic sanctions imposed by the United States and European Union on Myanmar’s junta. Myanmar’s neighbors, especially Thailand, China and India, have been rushing to do business with the country.

Mr. Premchai, the president of Italian-Thai, said there was so much interest from other nations that when the military government asked him for a decision, he could not hesitate. “They asked me, ‘Are you interested in doing this project?’ I thought if we didn’t take it, the foreigners would definitely get it. So I said, ‘I’ll take it,”’ Mr. Premchai said.

Chinese businesses are already dominant in many parts of Myanmar. A state-owned Chinese firm has begun construction of a pipeline that will carry gas and oil from another port in Myanmar, near the city of Sittwe, to southern China. The purpose of that project is much the same as Dawei’s: bypassing the transportation chokehold of the Strait of Malacca and speeding up oil shipments from the Middle East for China’s energy-hungry economy.

A free hand

For Thai companies, the business environment in Myanmar could hardly be more different from that at home — or more convenient for them. In Thailand, new private development requires environmental impact reports and hearings with local residents, obstacles that have snarled a number of high-profile projects.

In Dawei, the government simply told local residents to leave.

A group of farmers interviewed in their fields said they had not been consulted about the project but were told by a local leader that they would have to move. They were offered land elsewhere, they said, but it was not suitable for grazing cattle or cultivating rice. The idea of working on the project itself did not seem to entice them, and no representatives from Italian-Thai had made any offers yet, they said.

“Maybe there will be opportunities,” said one farmer. “But right now, we are in trouble.”

Local residents said the residents of 19 villages, each home to about 5,000 people, would be forced to leave. That number could not be confirmed. Italian-Thai said it calculated that 3,800 households would have to move.

“We are still in the process of negotiating with the villagers,” said Mr. Anan of Italian-Thai. As in most parts of Myanmar, which underwent a massive nationalization of assets in the 1960s, the land belongs to the state.

“It is totally different from Thailand,” Mr. Anan said in an interview. “Thais would argue about compensation and go to court. That’s not the case with this project.”

For foreign companies, the project also means less environmental oversight. In the case of Thailand, new laws that require more environmental safeguards have slowed the expansion of the industrial complex at Map Ta Phut, the country’s largest petrochemical facility.

Local residents at Map Ta Phut have pointed to data indicating higher cancer rates and polluted air and groundwater — and government studies have backed them up. A group of residents filed a lawsuit that last year led to a court injunction on future development; the injunction was later lifted, after protracted negotiations.

By contrast, Italian-Thai officials said that there were no laws in Myanmar covering environmental protection but that they had conducted their own assessment of the likely impact in Dawei.

“You have to think of Myanmar as Thailand 50 years ago,” said Surin Vichian, the project manager in charge of engineering. “There’s nothing in the country but wilderness and cheap labor.”

The Dawei project would help Thailand meet its energy needs while avoiding the brunt of the pollution from the power’s generation. A massive 6,000-megawatt, coal-fired power plant planned for Dawei would transmit power to Thailand.

Thailand already relies heavily on Myanmar for energy; the Dawei project is only a few dozen kilometers south of a pipeline to Thailand built more than a decade ago by the U.S. oil company Chevron and the French oil company Total, and which supplies electricity for greater Bangkok. The sale of gas to Thailand, worth $4 billion last year alone, has been crucial in helping buttress the power of the military leadership in Myanmar.

The Dawei project includes a profit-sharing agreement with the Myanmar government, but executives from Italian-Thai said they could not divulge details.

A PowerPoint presentation prepared by Italian-Thai and obtained by the International Herald Tribune described the site, known as northern Maungmagan, as ideal. The water is deep enough to accommodate ships and oil-carrying supertankers with loads of up to 300,000 tons, it said. A number of islands help form a barrier for the port. The adjacent area is largely flat and has plentiful water supplies, making it suitable for factories and refineries that will manufacture plastics and other petrochemical products.

The city of Dawei does not seem entirely prepared for what is coming. It has four traffic lights, dilapidated British colonial villas and horse-drawn carts that clip-clop along potholed streets. The region’s poverty and its decrepit infrastructure have left it isolated from central Myanmar, let alone the rest of the world.

The mountainous jungle along the Thai border to the east is so thick that smugglers bring in motorcycles from Thailand on bamboo poles, because there are no paths on which to ride them. But once the planned highway is completed, it is conceivable that Bangkok will be just a few hours’ drive away.

The company said the first phase of construction — the road to Thailand, a water reservoir, and the coal-fired power plant, among other projects — would be completed within five years, while finishing the whole project would take a decade.

The Thais are drawing on their experience in building Map Ta Phut, the massive petrochemical complex linked to pollution and higher cancer rates. Somchet Thinaphong, who helped devise the master plan for Map Ta Phut, is the managing director of Dawei Development, which is to oversee the project.

“This will be exactly 10 times bigger than Map Ta Phut,” Mr. Somchet said.

U.N. official to visit

A senior U.N. official was to visit Myanmar over the weekend to meet the country’s military rulers and the recently released democracy activist Daw Aung San Suu Kyi, diplomats said Friday, The Associated Press reported from Yangon.

Vijay Nambiar, chief of staff for the U.N. secretary general, Ban Ki-moon, was probably coming to “feel the temperature” in the country following the first election in 20 years and the democracy leader’s release from house arrest, one diplomat said on condition of anonymity, citing protocol.

 


China and Pollution Abatement Measures

Chinese citizens demonstrate themselves to be among the most crafty and resourceful on the planet. http://www.csmonitor.com/World/Global-News/2010/1111/Anti-pollution-efforts-in-Chinese-city-are-too-effective-for-city-to-afford