Wednesday, 13 June 2018

United Nations of Water for Thailand and UK?

Terrific news that the Songkhram River in the Isaan region of Thailand and a tributary of the Mekong is being considered for RAMSAR protected status as detailed in The Nation newspaper and NY Times on the Chaopraya:

RAMSAR being the natural and water equivalent of UNESCO Heritage Status developed from the Iran summit of 1971.
And here in East Kent, just down the road from Ramsgate's Royal Harbour and opposite the Julius Caesar landing site and just up the road from the White Cliffs of Dover, Pegwell Bay already has RAMSAR status.

A status often neglected in the past: runoff from Manston airport, cabling from the new Thanet Array windfarm, the disused Hoverport and the now-demolished Richboro power station undermining the wetlands considered Britain’s Camargue in the white horse county of Kent.

Even now the extraordinarily foolish blight of a disused wind turbine on land and the first National Grid mega-pylon at Broad Oak (with those oaks chopped down as in Sheffield, much as Thai tourists to Sevenoaks might be disappointed at those oaks reduced in storms) that could easily be buried underground.

The sort of blight of a green jewel that was all too frequent in the haze of the 1970's that still lingers over much of Kent planning.

Certainly Pegwell Bay needs renewed efforts and investment to preserve it - and the Songhkram River needs similar efforts to develop its RAMSAR status.

UK and Thailand working together with the UN?

### HSBC Water and Trump Davos ###

A still unspoilt tributary of the Mekong is hugely important in preserving flora and fauna - especially fish. It was reassuring to see HSBC Water of Thailand involved (the CSR water division of HSBC Bank), not just as a Trump Davos 15Friend, but I was involved in discussions on HSBC Water Vietnam in the Mekong Delta around My Tho which were very impressive.

Surin Village School Charity with the first Thailand school built for just $30,000 for c.50 children suggests a format for the 65M children still not in school (90% of the education UNMDG achieved). In outline terms, 1M extra village schools for those 65M kids at £30k would be $30BN.

Built over 3-5 years a cost of c.$6BN per year is hardly outrageous, with UK alone funding DFID’s $20BN aid budget for just 0.7% GNI. Even without USAid, AusAid or ADB, EBRD and AIIB funds.

POTUS Trump right to flag up Germany at the G7 Summit for freeriding on both the NATO 2% target (Berlin nearer 1.17% although who knows with bizarrely no specific NATO criteria) for European defence and the UN 0.7% aid target (Berlin nearer 0.3%) – along with other EU nations.

And those last 10% of schools in hard to reach places key if nothing else – leaving aside the splendours of education in itself – as minihubs for distribution of vaccines, condoms, spectacles such as James Chen’s Clearly, soap such as Lifebuoy, clothes (UK football shirts in the Global South seem the schoolwear of choice), shoes (or is it trainers), university MOOC’s and tampons. Even Amazon Kindles, Microsoft computers, and Raspberries and Blackberries or Huawei phones for healthier, educated and interconnected generations.

Children born today already expected to live to over 90 years old.

Smart brands such as Adidas TD15F or Samsung would no doubt be keen to get in on the ground level of such schools and a growing generation.

And Thailand is still under-performing in UNESCO World Heritage Sites the Doi Suthep or Fort Mahakan vandalism less than ideal. While East Kent has not just the White Cliffs of Dover UNESCO site but also Canterbury just a twenty minute drive away with not one but three UNESCO sites around Canterbury Cathedral.

Apart from Julius Caesar, St Augustine the founder of the Church of England actually has his trail beginning at Pegwell Bay, through to Canterbury and down to Rome presumably an offshoot too to the Camino de Santiago Way.
Apart from demolishing Richboro power station in my MP and Mayor manifesto I've also argued for the East Kent and Canterbury UNESCO sites to be interlinked.

As an aside on energy, also closing Dungeness nuclear power station faster, that near the famous movie director Derek Jarman garden. And with Kingsnorth power station, one of the largest in UK also now closed and demolished to meet EU emission targets and reduce those 40k UK deaths from air pollution each year, as UK closes its last coal mine and achieves record use of renewable solar and wind and wave energy.

UK's Thailand diplomat Dan Fieller highlighting just 6 coal power stations left in Thailand with one being built and one more on the Mekong in Laos, and heated debate over Krabi plans surely indicates ASEAN switching faster to solar. Margaret Tongue, UK Deputy Ambassador in Bangkok highlighting that Asian solar power is 38% hotter than Europe – Thailand, with battery storage reforms, as a nett exporter to say China and even India still-growing as the largest population in the world?

While further afield but not so far away across the Pacific, California’s mandate for 50% of electricity from renewables by 2030 (and reforms needed for 1.3GW of extra energy from its three largest utilities) beginning to be delivered by SCE, Southern California Edison, for its 15M customers. And AES installing a huge 100MW lithium-ion battery storage facility. Perhaps to rival Elon Musk’s Tesla work, and Australia batteries, with Panasonic.

### Mombasa to Myanmar and Manila to Fukuoka ###

On a recent conference visit to Kyaiktiyo Golden Rock in Myanmar and a spot of hiking it was astonishing to see the spread of mini-solar panels, about the size and weight of a pad of A4 paper, powering small houses with lights, fan, television and fridge plus wifi and mobile phones and motorbike batteries.

Without a surge in window glass solar panel tech in UK and Asia (and unbanked financial services?)UK could be being left behind - Philippines already launching 5G internet in 2019 and a much wider range of free wifi hotspots.

Those solar panels not so dissimilar to those exhibited by Chi Onwurah MP Shadow Business Minister in Parliament with Vodafone for African cities and UN Habitat slums - clearly the political will and technology and DFID budgets under the capable stewardship of former UK UN Ambassador Matthew Rycroft are there to make it happen well before 2030.

Is it so outrageous to consider the Songkhram River RAMSAR and UNESCO status with the Mekong as a whole, and the Tonle Sap Lake in Cambodia - an ASEAN Blue Route? Even the Chaopraya and budding Riverfront Promenade in Bangkok: shades of the Victoria Embankment and Big Ben and Parliament that also has UNESCO status.

And an opportunity to refresh some of the klongs and canals and riverways at least from the rising tide of plastic waste. An issue facing Thailand in the Pacific Plastic Patches (ADB and navies adrift on cleanup?), a whale choked on 80 plastic bags and a Floating Island of Garbage off Hua Hin.

Those choked inland waterways affecting cities as HCMC and Manila and Jakarta too. As well as beach closures such as Boracay, and the DiCaprio movie site Maya Beach for a respite from overtourism.

In my Sincerity Advertising role, tourism brands such as both Philippines and Boracay for example often needing to diversify both markets and other destination sites such as Puerto Princeca or Zamboanga and Mindanao.

A vigorous Daily Mail newspaper campaign to clean two huge grotspots in the River Don near Doncaster and East London Lee Valley even then taking almost a month to gain momentum from the UK Environment Agency. No doubt even longer with Kent Environment Agency and concerns over EIR/FOI requests wrongly refused and ignored and pollution sites such as Medway river, cited by the Independent as one of UK’s worst top ten polluted rivers, and Thor mercury, Kent’s Minamata.

### Hungary for Water ###

President Duterte even taking time off from the Drugs War and Spratlys issues to supervise the restoration of Boracay. For if Build-Build-Build is the sustainable watchword in a growing Philippines economy then that has been well-balanced so far through Ceboom and the Jobs-Jobs-Jobs of a safeguarded and long-term resilient tourism economy.

While Ambassador Bogyay of the Hungary UN Mission has not just banged the drum for the Budapest World Swimming Championships last year that showcased the sparkling glamour of that city and Danube, but also the UN Water Summit in 2019.

The ACMECS Summit in Bangkok this week should be interlinked with the Water Summit next year.

Any of the above water projects would be ripe for the UN Volunteers and Red Cross organisations too? Surely those two organisations, and school and university students initially, need to have watertight ways of working together on Climate Change and Resilience issues?

The floods across MittelEurope recurring more frequently with avoidable deaths.

With the wipeout of UKIP in UK, and East Kent, the final MEP's leaving the European parliament next year, and this week with UK immigration figures sensibly adjusted not to include foreign students.

And with 97% of foreign students returning home after completing their degrees, surely East Kent with 4 universities and dozens of language schools, and UK universities more generally, should capitalise more fully on its Visegrad links.

With Kent twinned with Bacs-Kizkun in Hungary and Lake Balaton area near Slovenia, in the recent past surely it's time to wash away some of the dust and rust over Kent's Sister Cities and Regions too whether Hungary or Virginia on the eastern seaboard of USA.

The clean and unspoiled waters of Pegwell Bay and now Songkhram River might be ideal to do just that.

Time for Change

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