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Dwindling surface water resources and excessive exploitation of groundwater reserves have been observed across the ASEAN region. In this regard, desalination is being considered a feasible option to address the ever-increasing water demand and to address the scarcity of water. Singapore is the most active desalination market in the region. While there has been a tremendous increase in the demand for desalination in Indonesia, the Philippines, Thailand and Vietnam, their markets are largely characterised by small-scale desalination plants that provide potable water to industries and small remote islands. Our focus story, “Bright Prospects” concludes that the region offers huge potential for desalination, especially for industrial users such as thermal power plants, steel companies, nuclear power stations and oil refineries.  RO technology will continue to be the preferred technology route for executing desalination projects in small and remote municipal areas, at least in the short run.

Our other regional story, “Harnessing Hydropower” highlights that increasing power demand, volatile prices in the global energy markets and rising concerns over carbon emissions will drive Southeast Asian countries’ interest in hydropower development – the Mekong’s indigenous renewable energy resource. While hydropower development is the key to economic growth for countries like Lao PDR that can export power, it will help reduce the dependence on fossil fuels in the case of self-sufficient countries like Malaysia and Thailand. However, factors such as long gestation period, high capex, and geological surprises during construction can deincentivise developers from setting up hydropower plants.

A slew of new laws and initiatives have been put in place by various Southeast Asian nations for technology advancement in the telecom space in their respective geographies. Our telecom story, “Road to 5G” indicates that transition from 4G to 5G has picked up pace in Southeast Asian markets. Telecom operators in countries like Singapore, the Philippines and Thailand are leaving no stone unturned to jump onto the 5G bandwagon before the year 2020.

Quite a few of the other stories in this issue are focused on key projects and initiatives in progress in various countries. These include “Easing Congestion” (Hanoi bus rapid transit, Vietnam) and “Water Crisis” (water management in Jakarta, Indonesia).

A country that we are taking a closer look at in this issue is the Philippines. The country needs huge investments to develop new and renovate its existing infrastructure. To achieve this, public funding needs to be supplemented by private investments. Our story “Big Plans” highlights various initiatives to attract private participation in the infrastructure space in the country.