RIVER conservation advocates said Wednesday that the closing of dams in Vietnam had caused the Sesan River in northeast Cambodia to become so dry that it was occasionally possible to walk from one side to the other, and that fluctuating water levels were threatening villagers dependent on the river’s fish.
The 3S Rivers Protection Network (3SPN) said in a statement that the water shortage in the Sesan – particularly in the O’Yadav and Andong Meas districts of Ratanakkiri province – had been caused by the Yali Falls hydroelectric dam, located 80 kilometres from the Cambodian border, as well as five other dams in Vietnam.
Sev Doeun, a spokesman for 3SPN, said in an interview that the recent temporary closures of the Yali Falls dam had not only threatened fishermen’s livelihoods, but had also made some of them ill.
“On February 2, they closed the dam and prevented the water from flowing,” he said. “When the water wasn’t flowing, the young people were getting rashes. Also, when it was low, the people found it hard to row and fish.”
Their problems didn’t end when the dam was reopened on Tuesday, he added.
“When the water was low, they had to leave the boats on the riverbed, but when it reopened the boats floated away,” he said. “The fishermen couldn’t find them. The people were [also] scared when it reopened because there could be flooding.”
Concerns in Vietnam
The 3SPN statement follows a forum held at Vietnam’s Can Tho University on February 3 at which experts said they were worried that dams built on the Mekong would disrupt fish migrations “that are critical to the life cycle of 70 percent of the Mekong’s commercial fish catch” in Vietnam.
Experts expressed concern about plans for the construction of 11 further hydropower dams on separate Mekong tributaries, which they said would affect water quality and cause riverbank erosion.
Ratanakkiri provincial officials said they were too busy to comment on Wednesday.