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Croc release at dam site planned

A conservation group may release 20 baby Siamese crocodiles into the Areng Valley amid an ongoing stand-off between villagers and a Chinese firm over the construction of a controversial hydropower dam in Koh Kong province.

Tuy Serey Vathana, country directory at Fauna and Flora International, said yesterday that the group was prepared to release the endangered crocodiles despite previously saying that it would not do so unless it had assurances that the Stung Cheay Areng dam would not be built.

“Whether the dam will be built or not is still unclear,” he said. “To be honest, we want to do this as a test, to see if we can keep the crocodiles in the Areng [Valley].”

Vathana met with Minister of Environment Say Sam Al last week to raise concerns over the prospect of the dam, he added. “The new minister is very good. He said that if he could make the decision, he would not want the hydro dam, but said that Cambodia needs electricity.”

State-owned Sinohydro Group is the third Chinese firm to be granted permission to assess the viability and impact of the Areng project.

The last company to conduct studies into the dam, China Guodian, backed out, saying in its annual report last year that it had done so because the project was “not economically viable”.

Representatives of the Ministry of Mines and Energy could not be reached.

“We informed the minister about the history of the hydro dam companies there, and the minister joked that [Sinohydro] might be the last one,” Vathana said.

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