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Tuesday, March 30, 2010

Work begins on Cambodian hydropower project


PHNOM PENH, Cambodia -- A Chinese company has begun construction of one of several hydroelectric dam projects planned to reduce electricity shortages in Cambodia that environmentalists warn could do more harm than good, an official said Tuesday.

The China National Heavy Machinery Corp. will build the 246-megawatt plant in Koh Kong province, with an investment of $540 million. A groundbreaking ceremony was held Monday, and the project is due for completion by 2014, said Pich Siyun, chief of the province's Industry Department.

"We have a shortage of electricity now, and I hope that the dam would help reduce people's poverty as the price of electricity would be cheaper," he said.

On Thursday, a ceremony is expected to take place in the capital Phnom Penh for the inauguration of another Chinese-built hydroelectricity project in Koh Kong. Pich Siyun said China Huadian Corp. plans to build a $558 million hydropower plant that would generate up to 338 megawatts.

Koh Kong province is about 130 miles (210 kilometers) west of Phnom Penh.

Electricity generation in Cambodia remains largely underdeveloped, with most power plants using fossil fuels. The impoverished Southeast Asian nation also buys electricity from neighboring Vietnam and Thailand.

Power costs in Cambodia are among the highest in the world, and only about 12 percent of its 14 million people have access to electricity, according to the World Bank.

Electricity prices are also a major source of complaint from investors in Cambodia.

In a bid to meet future electricity demand, the government has identified 21 potential hydroelectric dam sites across the country.

But environmentalists have voiced concerns about the impact those projects will have.

In a 2008 report, the U.S.-based International Rivers Network said "poorly conceived hydropower development could irreparably damage" Cambodia's environment and also extract a social cost.

But Pich Siyun dismissed the concerns, saying the projects were studied thoroughly by all concerned ministries before they were approved by the government.

"Of course there is an impact from the dams once we build, but according to our studies, the income from electricity will really boost our economy," Pich Siyun said.

No specific plans have been announced to export power generated from the hydro schemes - an approach embraced by Cambodia's cash-strapped neighbor, Laos - but Prime Minister Hun Sen has previously said that if Cambodia's capacity was adequate it would consider selling electricity to Thailand.
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Did Climate Influence Angkor's Collapse? Evidence Suggests Changing Environment Can Bring Down a Civilization

ScienceDaily (Mar. 29, 2010) — Decades of drought, interspersed with intense monsoon rains, may have helped bring about the fall of Cambodia's ancient Khmer civilization at Angkor nearly 600 years ago, according to an analysis of tree rings, archeological remains and other evidence. The study, published in the journal Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences, may also shed light on what drives -- and disrupts -- the rainy season across much of Asia, which waters crops for nearly half the world's population.

Historians have offered various explanations for the fall of an empire that stretched across much of Southeast Asia between the 9th and 14th centuries, from deforestation to conflict with rival kingdoms. But the new study offers the strongest evidence yet that two severe droughts, punctuated by bouts of heavy monsoon rain, may have weakened the empire by shrinking water supplies for drinking and agriculture, and damaging Angkor's vast irrigation system, which was central to its economy. The kingdom is thought to have collapsed in 1431 after a raid by the Siamese from present-day Thailand. The carved stone temples of its religious center, Angkor Wat, are today a major tourist destination, but much of the rest of the civilization has sunk back into the landscape.

"Angkor at that time faced a number of problems -- social, political and cultural. Environmental change pushed the ancient Khmers to the limit and they weren't able to adapt," said the study's lead author, Brendan Buckley, a climate scientist and tree-ring specialist at Columbia University's Lamont-Doherty Earth Observatory. "I wouldn't say climate caused the collapse, but a 30-year drought had to have had an impact."

Scientists led by Buckley were able to reconstruct 759 years of past climate in the region surrounding Angkor by studying the annual growth rings of a cypress tree, Fokienia hodginsii, growing in the highlands of Vietnam's Bidoup Nui Ba National Park, about 700 kilometers away. By hiking high into the mountain cloud forests, the researchers were able to find rare specimens over 1,000 years old that had not been touched by loggers. After extracting tiny cores of wood showing the trees' annual growth rings, researchers reconstructed year-to-year moisture levels in this part of Southeast Asia from 1250 to 2008. The tree rings revealed evidence of a mega-drought lasting three decades -- from the 1330s to 1360s-- followed by a more severe but shorter drought from the 1400s to 1420s. Written records corroborate the latter drought, which may have been felt as far away as Sri Lanka and central China.

The droughts may have been devastating for a civilization dependent on farming and an irrigation system of reservoirs, canals and embankments sprawling across more than a thousand square kilometers. The droughts could have led to crop failure and a rise in infectious disease, and both problems would have been exacerbated by the density of the population, Buckley says.

The study also finds that the droughts were punctuated by several extraordinarily intense rainy seasons that may have damaged Angkor's hydraulic system. During a normal monsoon season, Angkor's hydraulic network could have handled heavy downpours, but after extended droughts, the system may have been vulnerable to massive siltation and clogging, the study suggests. Layers of coarse debris and other sediments found blocking some canals appear to have been laid down suddenly. In other spots, apparently sudden erosion cut canals as much as 8 meters below the surrounding landscape, potentially destabilizing the hydraulic system. Archeologists have found additional evidence that canals were rebuilt and rerouted to cope with water shortages.

In compiling the longest tropical tree ring record to date, researchers found that the third-driest, and the driest, years in the last 760 years occurred back to back in 1402 and 1403, about three decades before Angkor's fall. The second driest was 1888, which coincided with the 1888-1889 El Niño, a cyclical warming of the tropical Pacific Ocean. By correlating known El Niño cycles measured with modern instruments, researchers have documented how the cyclical warming and cooling of the tropical Pacific Ocean brings rain to some places and drought to others. The authors of the current study and other researchers suggest that El Niño, possibly abetted by longer, decades-long cycles across the Pacific basin, may have played an important role in shutting down the monsoon rains in this region, creating withering droughts in the past. Some scientists suspect that warming of the global climate may intensify these cycles in the future, raising the possibility of alternating Angkor-like droughts and destructive floods that could affect billions of people.

Similar studies suggest that abrupt environmental changes may have pushed other ancient civilizations over the edge, including the Anasazi people of the southwestern United States; the Maya people of Central America, and the Akkadian people of Mesopotamia. There is some evidence that other once-powerful kingdoms in what is now Vietnam and Myanmar may have fallen during the late 1700s, following extreme dry and wet periods.

"Both human society and the erth's climate system are complex systems capable of unexpected behavior. Through the long-term perspective offered by climate and archaeological records, we can start to identify and understand the myriad ways they may interact," said study coauthor Kevin Anchukaitis, a tree ring scientist at Lamont. "The evidence from monsoon Asia should remind us that complex civilizations are still quite vulnerable to climate variability and change."
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VanceInfo Announces IT Services Engagement with Cambodian Telecom Firm

BEIJING, March 29 /PRNewswire-Asia/ -- VanceInfo Technologies Inc. (NYSE: VIT) ("VanceInfo") (the "Company"), an IT service provider and one of the leading offshore software development companies in China, today announced an agreement to provide a comprehensive telecommunications back-end management system for Chuan Wei (Cambodia) Company Ltd. ("Chuan Wei"), a provider of cutting-edge broadband services in Southeast Asia. The agreement, signed at a ceremony in Phnom Penh by David Chen, President of VanceInfo, and Chuan Wei's Chairman and CEO, Alan Khov, comes following a rigorous global vendor search and evaluation by Chuan Wei.

Chuan Wei offers corporate communications services in Cambodia through a nationwide fiber-optic network and is planning to introduce wireless broadband services. "Chuan Wei will play a leading role in establishing world-class broadband and ICT infrastructure in Cambodia, so we can afford to work with nothing less than world-class IT services companies having expertise in the telecom space," said Mr. Khov. "Our goal is an integrated solution to handle not only our business and operational support systems (B/OSS), but also billing and customer-relationship management. VanceInfo's software will underpin a new, higher-quality breed of Internet services in Cambodia." Although Internet usage in the country of 15 million people has nearly doubled the past five years, the overall penetration rate is at less than 1 percent of the population. Chuan Wei expects a surge in demand when affordable wireless broadband services become more widely available.

"We are pleased to be selected by Chuan Wei to develop and implement an end-to-end solution for their telecom needs, and excited to help Cambodia advance in the field of information and communications technology," added Mr. Chen. "Our strong IT service offerings in the telecom space allow us to provide a solution that is customized to their specific business, technical and geographic requirements. As with all our clients, we are committed to delivering first-class IT services to Chuan Wei that support an expected rapid expansion of business in the emerging Cambodian telecom marketplace."

VanceInfo performs IT services across multiple geographies including Asia Pacific, the Americas, and Europe for many Fortune 500 clients including leading telecom carriers in mainland China and Hong Kong as well as prominent technology firms such as Microsoft and IBM. The engagement with Chuan Wei in Cambodia sets a new milestone for the Company's strategic business expansion in the South East Asia region.

About VanceInfo

VanceInfo Technologies Inc. is an IT service provider and one of the leading offshore software development companies in China. VanceInfo was the first China software development outsourcer listed on the New York Stock Exchange.

The Company ranked number one among Chinese offshore software development service providers for the North American and European markets as measured by 2008 revenues, according to International Data Corporation.

VanceInfo's comprehensive range of IT services includes research & development services, enterprise consulting & solutions, application development & maintenance, quality assurance & testing, and globalization & localization. VanceInfo provides these services primarily to corporations headquartered in the United States, Europe, Japan, and China, targeting high-growth industries such as technology, telecommunications, financial services, manufacturing, retail, and distribution.

About Chuan Wei

Chuan Wei (Cambodia) Co. Ltd. is the country's fastest-growing broadband communications provider. Established in June 2008, the company operates a nationwide fiber-optic network and has launched corporate services such as dedicated Internet access, IP transit, private leased circuits (domestic and international), and co-location. It plans to roll out wireless broadband services for the mass market nationwide later this year.

Chuan Wei is rooted in one of Cambodia's most diversified business groups with interests across a wide spectrum of sectors including banking, property development, construction, hospitality, garment, and cement manufacturing.

Safe Harbor

This news release includes statements that may constitute forward-looking statements made pursuant to the safe harbor provisions of the U.S. Private Securities Litigation Reform Act of 1995. These forward-looking statements can be identified by terminology such as will, should, expects, anticipates, future, intends, plans, believes, estimates, and similar statements. Among other things, the management's quotations contain forward-looking statements. Such statements are subject to risks and uncertainties that could cause actual results to differ materially from those projected. Potential risks and uncertainties include, but are not limited to, the company's dependence on a limited number of clients for a significant portion of its revenues, the economic slowdown in its principal geographic markets, the quality and portfolio of its services lines and industry expertise, and the availability of a large talent pool in China and supply of qualified professionals, as well as the PRC government's investment in infrastructure construction and adoption of various incentives in the IT service industry. Further information regarding these and other risks is included in VanceInfo's filings with the U.S. Securities and Exchange Commission. All information provided in this news release and in the attachments is as of March 30, 2010, and VanceInfo does not undertake any obligation to update any forward-looking statement as a result of new information, future events or otherwise, except as required under applicable law.

SOURCE VanceInfo Technologies Inc.
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