Tag Archives: thailand

Bay of Bengal: ports against fishing

Strait_of_Malacca. Image from wikipedia

Bangladesh’s Chittagong, has… become a bottleneck. The Bangladeshis are modernising it… China is putting $200m towards upgrading the airport at Cox’s Bazar, the country’s southernmost tip, to attract investment and tourists.

Myanmar’s …new government, keen for foreign inflows to help rebuild the economy, has been approving projects that sat idle for years. Sittwe is one, but it looks small compared with the Dawei project on Myanmar’s Tenasserim coast… a deepwater port, industrial zone and highways to connect it with distant Bangkok, estimated to cost $8.5 billion.Thailand’s rulers dabbled for centuries with the idea of building a canal across the Kra isthmus, which would link their own gulf directly to the Andaman Sea and save days of costly shipping through the Strait of Malacca. Dawei should do the trick…. The Japanese are taking advantage of Myanmar’s opening to build a riverine port called Thilawa, south of Yangon.

The Chinese are exploring ways round their own Malacca-strait dilemma. They have been building new oil and gas pipelines across the whole of Myanmar starting from a new port-terminal at Kyaukphyu, near Sittwe….China’s activity in the Bay of Bengal is purely “defensive” [some say] but Indians versed in the “string of pearls” theory, which sees Chinese-built ports encircling India, will not be much comforted.

Amid the sometimes airy speculation, it is relatively easy to predict the effects on the repurposed waters of the bay. Yugraj Yadava, the director of an environmental watchdog in Chennai, says increased shipping is already eroding traditional livelihoods and polluting the sea. About 31% of the world’s coastal fishermen live and work on the Bay of Bengal, and they stand to lose huge tracts to the port-builders (and to rising sea levels, too). Mr Yadava says the bay still has some of the world’s healthiest natural fisheries, but they are under threat, not least from non-native species that stow away in long-haulers’ ballast.

Collisions between fishing vessels and commercial ships are becoming more frequent, as are snagged nets. All this will probably accelerate in the next few years. Before the Bay of Bengal falls victim to its new-found popularity, it might be good if some of its beneficiaries were to build a transnational maritime authority, to limit the damage.

Excerpts, The Bay of Bengal: New bay dawning, Economist,Apr. 27, 2013, at 40

Illegal Ivory Trade Persists Despite the Ban

For many years Southeast Asia had a bountiful supply of elephants to satisfy Thailand’s ivory traffickers, but the decimation of the species has seen them turn to Africa for their plunder.  The more than 1,600 tusks seized since the beginning of 2009 by Thai customs indicate that more than 800 elephants were slaughtered to feed a murky and voracious international market.

“Thailand is still ranked number one” in the ivory traffic rankings, said Chris Shepherd, deputy manager for Southeast Asia at wildlife protection group Traffic.  International trade in ivory was banned in 1989, but seizures have risen dramatically in the past five years.  Experts say the trade is passing through organised networks often linked to the smuggling of rare animals from Mozambique, Tanzania or Kenya.  “When you order ivory for decoration, one elephant will be killed — the killer is demand,” said Lieutenant Colonel Adtapon Sudsai, investigation chief at the Natural Resource and Environment Crime Suppression Department…Benefiting from its location, Thailand exports much of the ivory, rough or carved, to China — where it is traditionally used in medicinal powders — and Japan. But some also ends up in the United States and Europe.

Critics say the authorities need to take tougher action…Experts are pessimistic about justice being done, with a lack of communication between Bangkok and relevant African authorities and inadequate training of the customs and police officers.  When financial means exists, they are on the wrong side of the battle, experts say, with much remaining to be done against corruption…The local press recently reported on the disappearance of ivory stocks in a customs warehouse, an incident that does not appear isolated…

Amelie Bottollier-Depois, African elephants victims of Thai trafficking, Agence France Presse, Mar. 11, 2011