The Regional Center for Social Sciences and Sustainable Development (RCSD), Faculty of Social Sciences, Chiang Mai University (Thailand), recently came out with a new publication, “Rethinking Development Studies in Southeast Asia: State of Knowledge and Challenges”. It is an output from a workshop of the same title held in March 2015. It includes a paper by UCRSEA Co-Investigator Dr. Richard Friend, one of the workshop participants, on “The Future of Urbanisation, Regionalization and Climate Change in the Mekong”. It is available at the RCSD website, http://rcsd.soc.cmu.ac.th/home/index.php?sfile=publication.
UCRSEA Co-Investigator Dr. Richard Friend (Environment Department, University of York, UK) and Co-Director Dr. Pakamas Thinphanga (Thailand Environment Institute) have co-authored a chapter in the recently released book, Handbook of Cities and the Environment. Their chapter, “Urbanization, climate change, and regional integration in the Mekong,” provides an overview of the interconnected relationship between urbanization, globalization and climate vulnerability in the Mekong region.
As Drs. Friend and Thinphanga noted, urbanization in the Mekong region is “unfolding at a pace and scale never previously witnessed.” In terms of urban growth, Laos and Thailand respectively have the two highest annual rates of change in the world. Along with this rapid urbanization comes new challenges of urban poverty and increased economic vulnerability to climate shocks as Mekong countries become increasingly dependent on industrial and urban zones clustered in vulnerable areas such as coastlines and floodplains bordering major rivers.
Drawing on perspectives grounded in political economy and social ecological systems (SES), Drs. Friend and Thinphanga conclude: “urbanization and globalization produce new fault-lines of risk and vulnerability beyond the boundary of any one particular city.” Ultimately, “at the heart of urbanization are critical governance challenges related to the meaning and direction of development, and the rights of citizens to participate in decision-making processes.” Urbanization in the Mekong has historically occurred “against a backdrop of critical gaps in policy and planning,” enabling unchecked development that follows the demands of global capitalism and ignores the consequences to both the environment and local communities or those suffering from urban poverty.
In order to address these challenges, Drs. Friend and Thinphanga argue that we not only need better methodological tools to understand the transformations happening around us, but that creating space for informed public dialogue and “alternative narratives of urban futures” is crucial. Working together to address these challenges ultimately means confronting fundamental questions of “what kind of society we want to live in.”
The book is on sale on the publisher’s website, http://www.e-elgar.com/shop/handbook-of-cities-and-the-environment, and also on Google Books.
Ngin Chanrith, Heng Naret, Thuon Try (Faculty of Development Studies, Royal University of Phnom Penh) and Kim Nong (Ministry of Environment, Kingdom of Cambodia) are the authors of two reports on UCRSEA secondary cities in Cambodia: “Report on Identification of Case Study Site: Khemarak Phoumin Town, Koh Kong Province, Cambodia” and “Report on Identification of Case Study Site: Battambang Municipality, Battambang Province, Cambodia.” Both reports provide some reasons and data to support the selection of each area as a Cambodian case study. It is premised on the existing scholarship and a field visit to and a consultation workshop with relevant stakeholders in the province by the research team.
Lisa Drummond (York University) is quoted in a 21 January 2016 Guardian article. The article considers the rapid growth of Vietnam’s super-rich and the increase in multi-billion dollar developments across the city that separate the wealthy from street hawkers, congestion and pollution. The full story is available here: http://www.theguardian.com/cities/2016/jan/21/inside-hanoi-gated-communities-elite-enclaves-air-cleaner?CMP=share_btn_tw
In “The Future of Urbanization, Regionalization and Climate Change in the Mekong,” Richard Friend considers the direct linkage between urbanization and global climate change, among other issues. The paper was presented at the Rethinking Development Studies in Southeast Asia: State of Knowledge and Challenges event at the Regional Centre for Sustainable Development, Chiang Mai University in March 2015. The paper can be accessed here.