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Areng project changes hands again

A section of land in the Areng Valley in 2012 that will be flooded if the proposed Stung Cheay Areng dam project is completed
A section of land in the Areng Valley in 2012 that will be flooded if the proposed Stung Cheay Areng dam project is completed. Luke Duggleby/RIVERS INTERNATIONAL

Areng project changes hands again

Sinohydro Corporation has taken over the concession to build the Stung Cheay Areng dam in Koh Kong province and is preparing for the early stages of construction, according to a company representative and government officials.

Ith Prang, secretary of state at the Ministry of Mines and Energy, said yesterday that Sinohydro, which built the Three Gorges Dam in China, had taken over the concession from another Chinese firm, China Guodian Corporation.

“We can’t say when [Sinohydro] will start the construction, because we have to study a lot about the environmental impact. There are many stages to go before they start construction,” he said.

But Tou Savuth, governor of Thma Baing district, said yesterday that Sinohydro Corporation representatives, and officials from the Ministry of Mines and Energy visited the dam site on Friday in preparation for the building of an access road so that heavy machinery could be brought into the site.

“Sinohydro company representatives went down there to meet with district officials and officials from the Ministry of Mines and Energy on Friday,” he said.

“They have two purposes: First was to check the location for building a construction site, and the second was to prepare to construct a road to make it easier to access [the site].”

Alex Gonzalez-Davidson, co-founder of local NGO Mother Nature Cambodia, said that the company had also toured the site yesterday.

Kim Sovan, a Sinohydro representative, did not reply to repeated requests for comment yesterday, while his office said he was away on business.

Correspondence between Qi Wenhua, director of Sinohydro’s legal department, and the NGO International Rivers, obtained by the Post, provides further evidence that the firm is now running the project.

“Our company has recently participated in the preliminary work for this project,” Wenhua wrote earlier this year in response to questions about the Stung Cheay Areng dam.

China Southern Power Grid unveiled the dam project in 2010 but later backed out, and China Guodian Corporation soon took over. Xu Mingjun, a spokesman for Guodian, did not respond to emailed questions yesterday.

Savuth added that the authorities think adequate consultations have been held with villagers who will be affected by the dam.

“Implementing the project, we can’t avoid the impact. But experts have carefully studied the impact on natural resources, wildlife shelters for Siamese crocodiles and the social impacts,” he said.

More than a month after the Post reported that local consulting firm SBK Research and Development started conducting resettlement studies in the Areng Valley, its director yesterday said the studies were complete and had been submitted to the Ministry of Mines and Energy and Sinohydro Corporation for review.

Khnhel Bora, SBK’s director, said his firm had been hired by Sinohydro to carry out a number of studies in the area, including consultations with affected communities.

We already submitted the final draft [of the resettlement report] and now they are reviewing it, and so is the Ministry of Mines and Energy,” he said.

Pich Siyun, director of the mines and energy department in Koh Kong, said that the impact assessment was under review and that Sinohydro would soon build the access road.

Savuth insisted that the affected communities had been properly consulted and had given the go-ahead for the construction.

“We have disseminated information about the construction to villagers and, in general, they are OK with it because we told them there will be a study on impact assessment.”

Ven Vorn, a community representative in Chumnap commune, said that Chung ethnic minority villagers have not been not been consulted or even officially told that a hydropower dam is planned for their land.

“We can’t accept to relocate to the new place, because we might get only land to build a house, but not cultivatable land and especially because this is our ancestors’ spirit place.”

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