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Logo of Phnom Penh Post newspaper Phnom Penh Post - Funding for KR-era B'bang dam in jeopardy, ADB says

Funding for KR-era B'bang dam in jeopardy, ADB says

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BATTAMBANG PROVINCE

The Asian Development Bank says the concerns of local people who stand to be affected should be addressed.

Photo by:

THET SAMBATH

Roth Mom, a farmer and representative for the 180 families who have made a complaint, at the site of the dam in Battambang.  

THE Asian Development Bank (ADB) has threatened to withdraw funding for a US$2 million project to rehabilitate a collapsed Khmer Rouge-era dam in Battambang province unless the concerns of affected local people are addressed.

The warning comes after 180 families filed a complaint with the Battambang authorities requesting that they be given land in compensation for the 500-hectare Chork dam site, which they have farmed since 1979.

"If this development will have a big impact and that cannot be resolved, then we will withdraw [funding for] it," said Prum Viratha, the deputy team leader of technical assistance for the bank's Northwest Irrigation Sector Project. "Our loan agreement stipulates that [problems with] any project affecting the land, rice paddies or houses of people must be resolved."

Prum Viratha said that condition applied whether or not the project was on state land. He said the bank did not yet know how many rice fields were affected since the assessment stage was currently focussed on the technological requirements of the rehabilitation. The next stage would investigate the project's impact.

"The government has to solve it according to the loan agreement. If the problem is not solved and both sides disagree, the project will be withdrawn," he said.

Officials respond

The governor of Battambang, Prach Chan, told the Post Monday that the authorities were investigating the villagers' complaint.

"I have ordered my officials to look into this problem and to meet with the relevant officials and people in order to find a solution," Prach Chan said Monday. "In the newspapers it looks as though we are treating the people badly ­- but we are just trying to repair the dam in order to allow people to irrigate their rice paddies and farms twice a year."

Asked whether he thought the ADB would withdraw funding if the situation was not resolved, Prach Chan said it was too early to say. He was first waiting to hear from his officials about a proposed solution: "What I know is that the people have been growing rice on state land," he said.

Long Phal Khun, the director of the provincial Department of Water Resources and Meteorology, said a team had travelled to the Chork dam on Monday to assess the impact from the proposed restoration.

"First, we need to examine the situation and determine the number of rice paddies affected by the rehabilitation," Long Phal Khun said. "Once it has been studied, we can decide on the next stage for the people affected."

The ADB is funding three dam reconstruction projects in the province ­- Daun Av, Canal No 1 and Chork - as part of its $20 million Northwest Irrigation Sector Project.

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