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Dam breaks ground amid concerns

CHINA Huadian Hong Kong Limited, a Chinese state-run firm, broke ground Thursday on the Stung Russey Chrum Krom hydropower dam, amid conservationists’ concerns about the possible environmental impacts of the project.

The 338-megawatt dam, the second hydroelectric dam in Koh Kong province to enter the construction phase, is slated for completion by 2014 and will cost about US$496 million. Work on the 246MW Tatay Dam began last week.

Speaking Thursday at a groundbreaking ceremony in Phnom Penh, Minister of Industry, Mines and Energy Suy Sem said that Cambodia’s high electricity costs will drop once the hydropower plant is completed.

“We strongly believe this hydropower project will ensure the security of electricity in Cambodia, create more jobs and improve livelihoods,” he said.

With the addition of the two hydropower dams in Koh Kong province, Suy Sem also said the government expects a total taxation input of $12.5 million per year from Cambodia’s hydropower sector.

“This hydropower dam will help us to distribute electricity to people in the rural areas,” said Minister of Economy and Finance Keat Chhon, who added that the government hopes to provide access to electricity for 70 percent of the population by 2030.

However, Tonn Kunthel, programme manager of the Hydropower Project and Community Rights Project at the NGO Forum, said the company should take the environmental and social impacts of the project into account.

“We cannot stop this development project, but we ask the government and the company to prevent the destruction of protected forests and wildlife in this area, as well as to pay a decent compensation to the residents who face eviction,” he said.

According to an environmental impact assessment conducted by China Huadian, a copy of which was obtained by the Post, the construction of the dam will require the flooding of a 1,270-hectare area of protected forest and destroy the habitats of 184 species of animals, birds, fish and reptiles.

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