Hydropower on the Mekong - Progress or folly? - The Mekong River is the lifeblood of some 60 million people. It provides the conditions necessary for rice cultivation and a rich supply of freshwater fish. But Laos has identified its potential as a provider of energy. The country wants to become the "powerhouse" of Southeast Asia and is planning to build six hydropower plants on the river. But environmentalists and neighboring countries object to the plans, fearing the ecological consequences of the project, as well as the effect on the people living by the river. The Mekong River is home to some 700 species of fish, whose downriver passage will be disrupted by the construction of the dams. Critics say both the fishing and the tourist industries will suffer as a result of the project. Buddha's threads - Myanmar discovers lucrative trade in precious material - Hidden inside the stems of the lotus plant are a series of wafer-thin fibers, as fine as spider webs. Experienced weavers use it to make lotus silk, or 'Buddha's thread,' as the world's most precious material is also known. The material is seven times more expensive than silk and is considered by some to have healing properties. Inle Lake, where the lotus plant is grown, attracts traders from Europe and Asia. Bales of the precious material are now being exported. Climate: NICARAGUA - Solar dryers instead of drought - Nicaragua's unique weather conditions are ideal for growing coffee and cocoa beans. But climate change is threatening the weather system there - the dry periods are becoming more humid and conditions during the wet season are becoming more severe. Increasingly, crops are spoiling before they're harvested. With the help of solar dryers however, coffee, cocoa, fruit and wood can be dried within hours and made to last longer without adding chemicals. The Austrian company CONA has become the leading exporter of the component parts of these devices, which are being installed in even the remotest parts of the country.
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Episode #525 / Length: 26 minutes