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Innovative use of iGIS in Kaysone Phomvihane, Lao PDR

By Jeremy Sung

ICEM’s Jeremy Sung is visiting project sites in Lao PDR, Cambodia and Vietnam as part of an ICEM study into climate change threats and vulnerabilities in provincial towns. Here, he utilizes an innovative i-phone app iGIS as a cost-effective way to achieve project objectives.

KAYSONE PHOMVIHANE, LAO PDR – 19 September 2013:  Whilst undertaking the surveys and meetings as part of the  ADB project Climate Resilience in GMS  Cities, we encountered several challenges related to bad infrastructure and climatic conditions. We also  found that current maps of the local towns are very poor and out-of-date. We realized it would be useful to tag various features of the towns using a GPS device so that we could map the key features ourselves, and hence analyse the vulnerability of key infrastructure and facilities.

igis 2Our project team only has one GPS tagging device. However, this project spans more than three towns in three different countries (Cambodia and Vietnam as well as Lao PDR). With no extra budget for equipment, the question was, how were we going to manage the demands of mapping the key infrastructure and vulnerabilities in each of our project cites?

A cost-effective answer lay in Smartphones and free software. Using our consultants’ existing Smartphones we installed the free but featured-packed iGIS software. iGIS turned our phones into a fully capable GPS tagging devices, allowing us to map and plot data points and produce shapefiles that can be used by professional GIS software packages.

Whilst visiting project sites in Kaysone Phomvihane, we plotted our location on the map using iGIS and made some short notes about our observations. Back at the […]

By |September 23rd, 2013|Blog|0 Comments
  • Jeremy in Lao - flooded road near market
  • Jeremy in Lao - broken floodgate

Community climate change concerns in Kaysone Phomvihane, Lao PDR

By Jeremy Sung

ICEM’s Jeremy Sung is visiting project sites in Lao PDR, Cambodia and Vietnam as part of an ICEM study into climate change threats and vulnerabilities in provincial towns. Here, he meets the Women’s League and finds out how climate change can exacerbate gender inequalities.

KAYSONE PHOMVIHANE, LAO PDR – 18 September 2013: It’s rainy season in Kaysone Phomvihane so we woke up to grey skies and constant drizzling. An early meeting with the project managers for ADB infrastructure investments was followed by the Department of Natural Resources and Environment (DONRE). DONRE manages meteorological and hydrological data for the town and the officials here were very interested in our climate change projections.

Our next stop was the local community hall, to meet members of the Kaysone Phomvihane Women’s Union. We talked briefly about how climate change can exacerbate existing gender inequalities. We conducted a snap poll, using a show of hands. Women representing four districts complained of insufficient access to water and at least a third of the room experienced more than five blackouts per month. We also heard that the women in particular face the challenges of poor quality roads to the markets – since it’s often the women here are who are responsible for purchasing household goods. The women also described a major storm event in March this year (2013) which caused widespread devastation.

All in all, it was a fascinating session. We are looking forward to documenting the experiences of local residents during extreme climate events over the course of the project.

It was back into the field for the afternoon. We examined a storm water canal that regularly overtopped and the northern flood gate, which, like the southern gate, was now out of order. We […]

By |September 23rd, 2013|Blog|0 Comments
  • Jeremy Sung blog from Kaysone Phomivhane - fishermen outside the town
  • Jeremy Sung blog from Kaysone Phomivhane - meeting local officials
  • Jeremy Sung blog from Kaysone Phomivhane - flooded and potholed roads
  • Jeremy Sung blog from Kaysone Phomivhane - clogged drains near market

Climate change vulnerabilities in Kaysone Phomvihane, Lao PDR

ICEM's Jeremy Sung is visiting project sites in Lao PDR, Cambodia and Vietnam as part of an ICEM study into climate change threats and vulnerabilities in provincial towns. Here, he finds out how devastating poor drainage systems can be in rural towns. KAYSONE PHOMVIHANE, LAO PDR - 17 September 2013: Today we're in In Kaysone Phomvihane (Lao PDR), conducting meetings to analyse critical infrastructure and discuss climate change threats and vulnerabilities with government officials and local groups.
By |September 23rd, 2013|Blog, News|0 Comments

Getting the facts right on large hydro

by Simon Tilleard

How environmentally and socially sustainable are big dam projects? Simon Tilleard takes on the issue of large-scale hydro in his recent letter to the New Scientist.

What does “renewable power” mean to you?
Chances are, you’ll think of solar, wind and hydropower. But when it comes to large-scale hydropower, just how ‘renewable’ is this power?

I recently read an article in the New Scientist Rise of renewables starts climate-change fightback – (6 July, page 6-7) which brought home to me once again how common it is to see ‘the next generation’ of large hydropower dams held up as examples of environmentally conscious and sustainable sources of power.

In the article, authors Marshall and Aldhous indicate that large hydropower dams can help to fight back on climate change and produce ‘green power’ whilst sustainably managing environmental resources. They go on to state that a few large dams have erroneously given the sector a bad reputation and that the World Bank’s recent decision to return to funding large dams is proof of improved procedures for management.

My experience as a water resources engineer working in South East Asia brings me a different perspective. It’s abundantly clear that it’s misleading to suggest that merely a few of the older dam projects were ill-conceived and unsustainable. In reality, the negative environmental and social impacts of large dams often outweigh their economic benefits.

The 2000 independent World Commission on Dams, the most comprehensive study on dam impacts, concluded that big, complex schemes cost far more but produce less energy than expected. Examples of environmental and social impacts from large hydropower are plentiful, devastating fish losses from the Pak Mun Dam in Thailand or mass displacement caused by the Narmada Valley dams in […]

By |September 3rd, 2013|Blog, ICEM team|0 Comments

Drought management in Kompong Thom, Cambodia: The impact of irrigation on food security

By Paul Wyrwoll

ICEM’s Paul Wyrwoll reports from farming communities in Cambodia, where the recent rehabilitation of the Stung Chinit irrigation scheme has enabled many households to harvest a dry season rice crop and improve their food security.
However, the overall distribution of benefits and costs turns out to be much more complex than he expected.

Rice is the most important crop in Kompong Thom province, as it is across the Lower Mekong Basin. Situated north-east of the Tonle Sap, this province encompasses a large and flat floodplain. Farmers typically rely on a single rice crop, grown during the wet season in a lush landscape of endless rice fields. But in the dry season, the land is transformed into an arid dustbowl. Household food security is contingent on a store of the previous season’s harvest. Alternative income opportunities do exist, but they are limited, meaning that this livelihood cycle is highly precarious for poor households. Food security for families here can be completely undermined by a single adverse event, such as a destructive pest outbreak or the devastating 2011 flood.

The answer to this dramatic shift between rainfall abundance and deficit is well understood: irrigation of fields during the dry season with water from a reservoir, groundwater aquifer, or an alternative water source. But these solutions can be expensive, difficult to maintain, and/or entail external social and environmental costs.

Irrigation: ebbs and flows
Cambodia has a long history of irrigation construction. The long-lived prosperity of the Khmer Empire (AD 802- AD 1431) was founded on an extensive system of canals and reservoirs supplying an abundant agriculture sector. During the late 1970s the Khmer Rouge conscripted almost the entire population to build a vast irrigation infrastructure. The regime envisaged a […]

By |May 30th, 2013|Blog|0 Comments

River bank protection in the Mekong Delta

by Simon Tilleard

ICEM’s Simon Tilleard travels to the Mekong Delta with his father, visiting a unique project his father managed 13 years ago to prevent river erosion from destroying communities. This environmentally sensitive approach is proving effective and could provide a model for river bank protection today.

“It’s working!” my father exclaimed on a recent trip to the Mekong delta where 13 years ago he designed bank protection works for the My Thuan Bridge.

The bridge links the rice basket of the Mekong Delta to Ho Chi Minh, Vietnam’s largest city. At the time the bridge was Australia’s largest foreign aid investment ever.

The bank protection design was radical. The design aimed to stop erosion more than 500m upstream of the bridge. Rather than the standard concreting of the top segment of the bank where the erosion was obvious, the design instead incorporated a series of pile grovnes to slow the river flow velocity, encourage sedimentation and reduce the cause of the erosion from at the base of the bank and the bed of the channel. This was designed to treat the cause of the erosion – not the symptom.

Fifteen years ago my father sat drinking tea in the tropical heat with a man whose house was next in line for the river’s inevitable erosion. From a maximum rate of over 20m a year retreat during the 1960 and 70s the erosion had slowed to a still formidable six metres a year.

The man smiled and slyly joked “I have waited 20 years for a riverfront house, when the river destroys my house then I will just have to go to the back of the queue again”. But the old man is still grinning, drinking his tea and enjoying his river view.

Climate change is unlikely to affect the unique design […]

By |May 17th, 2013|Blog|0 Comments

Maintaining Community Livestock Systems in the Face of Climate Change

by Tom Weaver

The consumption of livestock derived products is rapidly increasing in the Lower Mekong River Basin. This is largely attributed to increasing standards of living and household incomes. Improvements in production, processing and postharvest practices present new opportunities for livestock owners, but also greater competition. But what might happen to livestock in the not-so-distant future as a result of climate change? How might smallholders remain competitive in terms of production costs, increasing their access to output markets and building system resilience to climate change? Finding answers to these types of questions and others to inform producers who are faced with critical economic

Understanding the climate impacts on livestock at the Basin level is a complex task. Balancing depth and breadth of focus is challenging given the geographic scope and diversity of livestock systems in the region. As part of the Climate Change Impact and Adaptation Study, I am currently conducting research on the climate impact on common livestock within the basin and their role in building community resilience. This work contributes to a broader understanding of key rural livelihood systems in the region.

Livestock are a crucial aspect of diverse livelihood portfolios for the great majority of rural households in the Basin; over 80 percent of rural families employ mixed crop-livestock systems for food production and income. The integration of livestock with cropping systems, fisheries and natural systems is of primary importance to current household incomes and resilience. Therefore, the Mekong ARCC study is taking a broader farming systems approach as climate impacts on the integration of, and relationships between, livelihood mechanisms is fundamental to household’s future adaptive capacity and resilience.

For example, livestock are commonly used as a source of traction for land preparation and in […]

By |April 12th, 2013|Blog|0 Comments