Research Papers and Reports

Understanding Institutional Challenges for Urban Planning in Vientiane Capital, Lao PDR
Compiled by Daniel Hayward

The rate of urban population growth in Lao PDR is the highest in the Asia-Pacific region. This is resulting in accelerated social, economic and environmental change in cities of the nation. Yet it remains a starkly under-researched topic. Using the example of Vientiane Capital, this briefing note presents an overview of the stakeholders, legal and policy frameworks, and infrastructural systems involved in urban planning. To assist both researcher and development practitioner, it provides a frame to engage multi-stakeholder policy dialogue and project implementation, specific to the context of Lao PDR.

Learning from Map Tha Phut for the development of Dawei Special Economic Zone
Jonathan Rhodes

Urban Climate Resilience in Southeast Asia (UCRSEA) partnership understands urbanization as a transformative process. Poverty, vulnerability, growth, and climate change impacts are influenced by ecology-human society interactions. With this focus, the partnership has identified Dawei, Myanmar as a secondary city with the potential to experience rapid growth through the creation of the Dawei Special Economic Zone (DSEZ). Development at this scale not only changes the economic linkages in the region; it has the potential to negatively transform society and the environment. For this reason, Mercy Corps and the Thailand Environment Institute (TEI) are working together to explore applicable environmental and social safeguards for Dawei with Map Tha Phut (MTP) as a frame of reference.

On the surface, environmental governance problems that led to a 2009 court case in MTP can be broadly described by the conflict between the socio-economic, political and environmental spheres. In exploring these issues, the Thailand Environment Institute (TEI) is examining the linkages between three influential stakeholder groups: regulatory bodies, businesses, and communities through NGOs, CSOs, and community leaders.

This report does not argue for or against the DSEZ, nor does it address the challenges present in Dawei. Instead, it is written with the assumption that the DSEZ might continue and offers recommendations to better improve the environmental governance mechanisms and policies as the process moves forward.

The UCRSEA Working Paper series addresses key issues related to urban climate resilience, the challenges for secondary cities in addressing climate change, and issues of social and environmental justice as related to broader themes of human-environment relations in Southeast Asia. The working paper series can provide in-depth consideration of conceptual, analytical, or methodological issues relating to these challenges. Overall, the series aims to enhance the emerging knowledge on urban climate resilience in Southeast Asia, and on related development and policy challenges for urban climate governance, and to strengthen the analytical analysis and tools of the UCRSEA project.

Thinking with a Kampung
Indrawan Prabaharyaka (Technische Universität München, Germany)

This is an ethnographically inspired essay which is a preliminary rehearsal of how a kampung thinks. Kampung is a form of vernacular ecology that abounds in, but is not limited to, Southeast Asia, with which one can approach climate in a more lateral manner. The exercise is to rethink resilience with a kampung in Jakarta and the accomplishment is to re-specify the concept as one of the most ordinary things that occurs in everyday life.

Enclaves of Capital in Myanmar: Urbanization and the Dawei Special Economy
Carli Melo (Mekong Migration Network)

The Dawei Special Economic Zone (SEZ) in southeastern Myanmar (Burma) is
slated to be the largest industrial complex in Southeast Asia. The development
of the SEZ is driving contemporary urbanization and giving rise to uneven
development. Dawei and Karen villagers are being dispossessed of their land and
livelihoods as a direct result of construction and as an indirect result of speculation.
Land grabbing, enabled by the state, is reorganizing labour dynamics as people are
expelled from agriculture without being absorbed elsewhere in the economy. Ms Melo’s research in Dawei on the SEZ and its impacts is influenced by a three-month internship placement in Myanmar through the UCRSEA Partnership. In this paper, she provides her recommendations for actions that will support meaningful public participation, fair compensation, and environmental and social impact assessments in accordance with international standards, as well as create long-term strategic plans to manage future urban growth.

The Political Ecology of Urban Climate Injustice in Thailand
Danny Marks (University of Toronto)

This paper addresses a gap in the literature on urban climate justice by examining inequity at the “urban scale” and adds to growing discussions and acknowledgment about the need for climate justice at the city scale. The study examines instances of climate injustice in Bangkok, Thailand, a city not only highly vulnerable to the effects of climate change, but also with one of the highest carbon emissions per capita in the world. Ultimately, the main argument presented is that the city’s governance of climate change has unjustly benefited the upper echelon of society, while low-income communities have been adversely affected.

Urban Disasters: Case Studies from Southeast Asia
Esther Lambert (University of Toronto)

This paper explores the global environmental change disasters that have affected Southeast Asia over the past five to ten years and the practice of predicting and responding to such disasters. The report seeks to understand who the various actors are (pre- and post-disaster) and some of the social, economic and political factors affecting the region’s capacity to predict and respond effectively. The report is available for download here and a summary of the report is available here.

A key outcome of the UCRSEA Partnership is the assessment of climate vulnerability in urban areas in Southeast Asia, specifically our secondary cities of focus.  The assessment for Dawei, Myanmar, is the first to be completed.

Vulnerability Assessment: Dawei, Tanintharyi Region, Myanmar (July 2016)
Taylor Martin and Saw Win

These processes are guided by a Framework for Climate Vulnerability Assessment in Urbanizing Asia.

Postdoctoral Fellows and graduate students who conducted research as part of the UCRSEA Partnership shared their research in the form of poster presentations at annual meetings and international conferences.

Stakeholder Mapping of the Dawei Special Economic Zone (SEZ)
Tammy Chou, University of Toronto, Danny Marks, University of Toronto and U Saw Win, Renewable Energy Association Myanmar

From vulnerability to resilience: Building adaptive capacity in developing Southeast Asian cities
Gwenn Pulliat, University of Toronto

Enclaves of Capital in Myanmar: Urbanization and the Dawei Special Economic Zone
Carli Melo, University of Toronto

The Cascading Impacts of Migration and Climate Change: Experiences of Myanmar Labour Migrants in Phuket, Thailand
Angelica de Jesus, University of Toronto

Leaving the Coast: The Interplay of Migration, Well-being and Resilience in Cambodian Coastal Fishing Communities
Furqan Asif, University of Ottawa

Assessing Livelihood Resilience and Vulnerability to Climate Change of Khmer Households in Soc Trang City, Mekong Delta Region
Ho Kim Thi, University of Social Sciences and Humanities, Vietnam National University, Ho Chi Minh City

Fostering Urban Resilience Among People in Battambang, Cambodia
Try Thuon, Chiang Mai University

The poster abstracts are available here.