Enclaves of Capital in Myanmar: Urbanization and the Dawei Special Economic Zone

  • March 25, 2016
  • University of Toronto
On 15 March, Carli Melo, Master’s Candidate in Planning at the University of Toronto, presented her research conducted as part of her summer 2015 internship with the UCRSEA project. She was based at and worked with Mercy Corps in Myanmar. Learn more about Carli’s experience here.
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Who governs the “in-between”? Climate change, beneficial flooding, and the everyday resourcefulness of local resource management in peri-urban Myanmar

  • March 22, 2016
  • Munk School of Global Affairs,

Climate change is having an impact on the severity and timing of river level fluctuations across Asia (Tanner et al 2009, Xu et al 2009, Palmer et al 2008, Dudgeon 2000). Flooding and flood-related disasters in mainland Southeast Asia make news around the world and are generating increasingly severe economic and political disruptions as they impact an urbanizing region. In Myanmar—a so called “water hotspot”—flooding is considered a crisis for state water management and governance, particularly in urban contexts. Moreover, in work on water and resilience, alongside an emphasis on ‘crisis’, we have seen water continually linked to scarcity and ‘disaster’ (Tanner et. al 2015, Mukheibir 2010). What these debates could better elucidate are the ways that everyday people work to address hydro-social practices in a changing climate, and the implications of this work for water management and social outcomes (Driscoll Derickson and MacKinnon 2015, MacKinnon Derickson 2013, ISET-I 2015).

One way that we can better understand the impacts of climate change on water and river fluctuations and take an approach that highlights the work of everyday people is to examine the impacts or changes to beneficial flooding and to its associated agro-ecological practices in mainland Southeast Asia, where the monsoon climate and regular flooding have been adapted by residents into local cultivation practices. In the places where flood-linked agriculture is practiced, the challenges and transformations posed by climate changes interact with both the current processes of urbanization and with historical and traditional technologies that have been developed to ‘harness’ river fluctuations. Riverbank gardening is one such hydro-social practice in Southeast Asia that produces food for/from both rural and urbanizing environments, and requires cultivators to understand and work around a river’s fluctuating water levels, the rise and fall of which shapes local ecologies, climate and the growing season.

This paper/presentation by Vanessa Lamb, UCRSEA Postdoctoral Fellow, investigated the practices of riverbank gardeners in urbanizing monsoon landscapes as one way to understand changes to beneficial flooding as related to both climate change and the multifaceted processes and impacts of urbanization. She drew on a framework that emphasizes the historical emergence of such practices, their contemporary challenges, and the role of everyday people in their management. Drawing three examples together, she argued that examination of these gardeners’ practices and strategies of ‘resourcefulness’ reveal the work of individuals and institutions governing overlooked in-between spaces—which might otherwise be described as ‘un-governed’ or ‘ungovernable’—in everyday practice. She argued that these spaces are being adaptively managed and governed by local residents, in connection with municipal (and other) authorities.

Vanessa is also an affiliated researcher with the York Centre for Asian Research, York University (Toronto, Canada). She worked and conducted research in Southeast Asia on natural resource access for the past 10 years. She completed her dissertation, Ecologies of Rule and Resistance, focused on the politics of ecological knowledge and development of the Salween River at York University’s Department of Geography. She was recently awarded an ASEAN-Canada Junior Fellowship for continued Research on water politics and transboundary environmental governance in Southeast Asia. She is also the lead PI for a new CGIAR WLE Greater Mekong project on water governance titled: Matching policies, institutions and practices of water governance in the Salween-Thanlwin-Nu River Basin: Towards inclusive, informed, and accountable water governance.

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Friend, Thinphanga present urban transformations, changing patterns of local risk in Mekong at NUS/UNU Conference

  • November 5, 2015 - November 6, 2015
  • Singapore

Richard Friend and Pakamas Thinphanga presented in a special session on the Mekong region at the Crossing Borders: Governing Environmental Disasters in a Global Urban Age in Asia and the Pacific conference on 5-6 November 2015.

The conference was organized by Asia Research Institute, National University of Singapore, in collaboration with Institute for Environment and Human Security, United Nations University (UNU-EHS), and Urban Knowledge Network Asia, International Institute of Asian Studies (UKNA-IIAS) with support from the Singapore Ministry of Education grant on ‘Governing Compound Disasters in Urbanizing Asia’.

The paper entitled “Urban transformations and changing patterns of local risk: the interwoven influence of regionalization, urbanization and climate change” explores the regional dimensions of patterns of urbanization, and the ways in which urbanization creates new patterns of vulnerability and risk that go beyond spatial impacts of specific events.

Both the regional dimensions of urbanization and the complex systems perspectives steers us towards the need for understanding vulnerability to shocks and crises that will be multi-scale, inter-linked and inter-locked, with impacts that cascade across locations and people, and that precipitate actions that also then create new round of potential shocks and crises. This is not to argue for abandoning the interest in spatial characteristics of vulnerability, risks and hazards, but rather, to argue the need to also factor in the ways in which the impacts of specific events cascade across locations. Such a shift requires a more regional and global analysis of the ways the Mekong region is becoming inter-linked and inter-locked, and a political economy grounded analysis of the drivers of urbanization.

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UCRSEA Presentation at the 2015 CCSEAS Conference

  • October 15, 2015 - October 17, 2015
  • University of Ottawa

Six members of the UCRSEA team presented their research in a panel titled, “Building Urban Climate Change Resilience: Evolving Challenge in Southeast Asian Cities”, at the 2015 Canadian Council for Southeast Asian Studies (CCSEAS) Conference. This year, the conference was held from 15 to 17 October 2015 and hosted by the University of Ottawa.

The panel included a conceptual paper that described the conceptual framework underlying the project as well as three papers by graduate students supported by the Partnership based on their exploratory research in Lao Cai, Vietnam, Daiwei, Myanmar and Bangkok, Thailand. The three student papers range in focus from the possibilities for green infrastructure in a rapidly urbanizing Vietnamese city to conducting a preliminary vulnerability analysis in Myanmar to how to create room for resiliency and sustainability planning in cities that are still struggling to manage basic infrastructure. The following were the papers presented:

Building Urban Climate Change Resilience in Southeast Asia: Conceptual Framework Amrita Daniere (Unviersity of Toronto), Lisa Drummond (York University), Richard Friend (ISET), Pakamas Thinphanga (ISET)

Conducting Climate Vulnerability Assessment in Daiwei, Myanmar Carli Melo, University of Toronto

Flows of water: Green infrastructure in rapidly urbanizing Lao Cai Lusha Zhou, University of Toronto

Challenges to Sustainability in Southeast Asian Cities Ishtiaq Afridi, University of Toronto

The full paper abstracts are available here.

Project member Melissa Marschke (University of Ottawa) was head of the Conference’s Organizing Committee.

More information about the conference, including the full programme, can be accessed here: https://ccseas2015.wordpress.com

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Building Urban Climate Change Resilience: Evolving Challenge in Southeast Asian Cities

  • October 8, 2015

Urbanization and climate change represent the most dramatic social economic transformations of our time. There is strong agreement among scholars that climate change is a threat to social and economic stability and development but, further, that more effective urban planning to mitigate and adapt to the impacts of climate change can promote sustainable urban fabrics (Simonis 2011; Yuen and Kumsaa 2011). This panel presented reflections and work-in-progress from the Urban Climate Resilience in Southeast Asia Partnership (UCRSEA) project. The following papers were featured:

Building Urban Climate Change Resilience in Southeast Asia: Conceptual FrameworkPakamas Thinphanga, Co-Director, Urban Climate Resilience in Southeast Asian Partnership (UCRSEA) and ISET-International

Growth of the Real Estate Sector and its Impact on Sustainability in Khon Kaen City, Thailand, Ishtiaq Afridi, Sustainability Management Program, University of Toronto

Conducting Climate Context Analysis in Daiwei, MyanmarCarli Melo, Department of Geography and Program in Planning, University of Toronto

Learning As We Grow: Lessons about the UCRSEA NetworkJoanna Kocsis, UCRSEA Evaluation Specialist; Department of Geography and Program in Planning, University of Toronto

Prof. Amrita Daniere, UCRSEA Co-Director, chaired the session.

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Discussing climate change resilience research at Mahasarakham University

  • July 1, 2015
  • Thailand

By Angelica de Jesus (PhD Candidate, University of Toronto) and Ishtiaq Afridi (UCRSEA Summer Research Intern, 2015 and Sustainability Management Program, University of Toronto)

The workshop arranged by Mahasarakham University in July 2015 provided a forum for local partners, graduate students and local researchers to present research findings and discuss research proposals on various topics related to UCRSEA themes.

The event was a wonderful opportunity for participants to learn about climate change challenges in Southeast Asia, and for presenters to receive feedback on their current research.

The Faculty of Environment and Resource Studies at Mahasarakham University is the newest UCRSEA partner organization.

Presenters included Dr. Kontaros Kaomuangnoi (Mahasarakham University); Professor Saimai Chaisirirn (Mahasarakham University); Mr. Weerayuth Phothaworn (Khon Kaen University); Dr. Pakamas Thingphanga (Institute for Social & Environmental Transition; Thailand Environment Institute); Angelica de Jesus (University of Toronto); Ishtiaq Afridi (University of Toronto); and Taylor Martin (University of Ottawa).

The one-day event covered several topics including the challenges of urbanization and climate change vulnerability in Southeast Asia, as introduced by Dr. Thingphanga, UCRSEA Co-Director. Dr. Kaomuangnoi, a lecturer from Mahasrakham University, shared his insights on the importance of promoting social enterprises in the Mukdahan Special Investment Zone in order to offset impacts of a major development project in a northeastern province of Thailand.

During the latter half of the workshop, graduate students Angelica de Jesus, Ishtiaq Afridi and Taylor Martin explained how their respective research efforts support UCRSEA’s goals of enhancing resilience and improving the economic and social well being of communities in the region.

Angelica de Jesus, a PhD candidate in Planning at the University of Toronto, is researching how Myanmar migrants perceive, experience and anticipate climate change impacts in the informal settlements of Phuket, Thailand. For her, feedback from participants was very positive and helpful, and will help her to further narrow her research scope. It also provided her with a better idea of the challenges that she may face while gathering data in Thailand.

Ishtiaq Afridi, a postgraduate student in the Sustainability Management Program at the University of Toronto, is examining how the private sector copes with climate change impacts, as well as the role that government policies and regulations play in influencing climate change actions in Thailand.

Taylor Martin, a Masters candidate in International Development and Globalization at the University of Ottawa, is assessing vulnerability and the multi-scale shocks and stresses that impact the Dawei District of Myanmar’s Tanintharyi Region.

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University of Yangon welcomes UCRSEA

  • June 17, 2015
  • Myanmar

The University of Yangon was set up in 1848 and is the most well-known university in Myanmar. A centre of the student movement in Myanmar, it was a stronghold of student protests against the government in 1988 and 1996. Due to its history of political mobilization, the University’s bachelor’s programs were discontinued in 1996. Only recently, in 2014, did the university reopen its doors to undergraduate students.

This may explain the tremendous turnout of students who came to learn about the UCRSEA project, including its conceptual framework and scholarship programs. The auditorium hall was packed with students who showed great interest in understanding how urbanization and climate change come together to create a host of vulnerabilities for rapidly urbanizing areas in Asia.

Students and professors asked questions ranging from climate change impacts and health, urbanization and peri-urban development, and even more philosophical questions about materialism and what constitutes the good life in urban settings. Asking these questions are fundamental to understanding how urbanization creates new sets of vulnerabilities to climate change impacts as well as avenues to build resilience.

Particular attention was focused on the UCRSEA’s scholarship program. Five scholarships are available for graduate students from project partner countries.

Applications for masters and PhD scholarships are due on 31 July 2015.

The University of Yangon presentation represents an initial dialogue between researchers, students, universities and organizations from Canada and partnering countries in Southeast Asia. By establishing partnerships between university students and faculty in Thailand, Vietnam, Cambodia, Myanmar and Canada, UCRSEA aims to catalyze research and build capacities to begin to understand the complexity of urban vulnerability and resilience to climate change.

Taylor Martin is an intern with the UCRSEA Partnership in 2015. She participated in the UCRSEA event at the University of Yangon in Yangon, Myanmar on 17 June 2015.

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ISET-Vietnam shares UCRSEA opportunities with Vietnamese universities

  • June 5, 2015
  • Vietnam

Dr. Tuyen Phuong Nghiem ISET-Vietnam organized a meeting with the rectors and vice rectors of seven universities from Hanoi, Da Nang, Ho Chi Minh City, and the Central and Western regions on 5 June 2015. Dr. Tuyen Phuong Nghiem and her colleagues presented the UCRSEA research framework and provided the group with details about fieldwork research funding and scholarships, among other opportunities. Those in attendance did raise concerns about the high English proficiency required for applicants to the PhD scholarship opportunity.

Participants were enthusiastic about participating in the UCRSEA’s evolving network of universities, academics and other organizations that can connect them to and update them on regionalization, urbanization and climate change issues. The university representatives in attendance kindly offered to distribute the scholarship announcement within their respective

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Dawei University Visit

  • June 1, 2015
  • Myanmar

In early June, representatives of UCRSEA partners including the Institute of Social and Environmental Transition (ISET), Thailand Environment Institute (TEI), Mercy Corps and Renewable Energy Association of Myanmar (REAM) met with faculty and students of Dawei University, Myanmar.

Team members including Co-Director Pakamas Thingphanga (left), told the group about the project, its goals and the partnership. She encouraged students in attendance to apply for the UCRSEA master’s scholarship. The deadline for applications is 31 July 2015.

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UCRSEA partner RCSD hosts Second National Academic Seminar

  • May 19, 2015
  • Chiang Mai, Thailand

UCRSEA partner organization, The Regional Centre for Social Science and Sustainable Development at Chiang Mai University, hosted the second National Academic Seminar on 19 May 2015. Pakamas Thinphanga, Amrita Daniere and Richard Friend provided an overview of the Partnership and on urbanization in Southeast Asia. Photos from the event are available on our Facebook page.

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