The Greater Mekong Sub-regions (GMS) consists of Myanmar/Burma,Cambodia Laos, Thailand, Vietnam, and two Southern provinces of China - Yunnanand Guangxi. These countries have been facing critical problems due to development projects along the Mekong River, specifically the construction of hydropower dams.Moreover, rapids blasting and bridge construction by Asian Development Bank (ADB)in China have also had a negative impact on downstream GMS communities for over adecade. Historically, decisions concerning such development projects have sufferedfrom: (1) lack of people participation from residents in local communities; and, (2) theinability of the local voices in GMS communities to impact the decision making process. Such development projects have led to deforestation, ecological and biodiversity decline, impoverishment, socio-cultural changes, loss of self-dependencyand food insecurity (Cornford and Matthews, 2007: Ransley et al., 2008).Since the 1980s, the accelerated deregulation of commerce worldwide hasincreased the ease with which corporate investment and trade flows circumnavigate the planet. Regional and global free trade agreements (FTAs), General Agreement onTariffs and Trade (GATT) [later became World Trade Organization - WTO], mega-hydropower dam projects and investment treaties are furthering this trend. Admittedly,the projects funded by powerful economic institutions such as transnationalcorporations (TNCs), Asian Development Bank (ADB) and the World Bank (WB) arehaving an ever-greater impact on people and the environment around the world (Greer and Giannini, 1999). This paper will focus on the environmental impact these projectshave had on the GMS countries, and an emergence of Information CommunicationTechnologies (ICTs) - that have been used by Community-based Organization (CBO)and Non-governmental Organization (NGO) to promote more sustainable developmentin Thailand and GMS countries, namely ‘Alternative Online Environmental Media(AOEM).
GMS Trade, Hydropower Dams and The Impacts
In 1992, the Asian Development Bank (ADB) initiated the GMS program in anattempt to encourage a ‘regional approach’ to achieve rapid economic growth amongsix GMS countries: Cambodia, Myanmar/Burma, Laos, Thailand, Vietnam and China(especially in Yunnan and Guangxi provinces) (Ransley et al., 2008). The GMS program has resulted in the construction of roads, bridges, airports, ports, hotels,casinos and dams across the region. Such projects have increased inequality and povertyamong the affected populations and led to deforestation, agricultural hardship and lossof biodiversity in the GMS.Subsequently, an FTA between China and Thailand commenced in 2003, whichnegatively impacted many Thai citizens. The Chinese government conducted massiverapids blasting operations to control water levels for easier trade navigation along theMekong River, which jeopardized the lives of villagers in northern Thailand. Thevillagers, whose agricultural subsistence was once fully dependent on the MekongRiver, have faced radical changes in their lives. Many farmers and fishermen gave uptheir traditional agricultural livelihoods and traded them for unskilled labor in nearby provinces or in big cities (International Rivers, 2008).