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Energy Minister plays down Areng concerns

Minister of Mines and Energy Suy Sem has issued a letter to the National Assembly commission on the environment, offering assurances that the planned Stung Cheay Areng Hydropower Dam will meet high environmental and social standards.

Opposition Cambodia National Rescue Party member Te Chanmony on September 18 requested clarification over the status of the project, prompting Sem to issue the letter.

“I wrote a letter to Prime Minister Hun Sen after the community and environmentalists have become increasingly worried about the loss of their traditions,” Chanmony said.

In the letter, Sem said the environmental impact assessment was not complete, but the first phase had identified hundreds of species of birds, mammals, reptiles and fish, which would need to
be relocated.

The “Areng Valley hydropower project has a capacity of up to 108 megawatts”, but will run continuously, providing more power than the Kamchay hydropower dam, even though it has a capacity of up to 194 megawatts, he wrote.

“Now the plan has been in a studying process stage, which … [will reveal the] environmental and social effect impacts.”

The Areng dam is slated to be built by the Chinese engineering giant Sinohydro Group. Months of protests against its construction have been met with frustration by officials, prompting dozens of police to detain several activists from NGO Mother Nature last month.

“When we develop each hydropower project, land and forest … needs to be preserved and reforested to keep the sustainability of the … ecological system,” Sem said in the letter.

Mother Nature founder Alex Gonzalez-Davidson said the government line was a lie, adding that an official document he had received said the impact assessment had been completed and Sinohydro intended to begin construction soon.

“I have asked the government to put off the project to study [the impacts] clearly and find out what are the costs and benefits,” he said.

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