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Logo of Phnom Penh Post newspaper Phnom Penh Post - Kampot dam gets green light

Kampot dam gets green light

kampot.jpg
kampot.jpg

Agreement meets three key local demands 

Sam Rith

Bun Sokhoeun and his friends are happy, because the agreement between the government and Sinohydro allows them continued access to the dam site to collect bamboo.

AChinese company will begin building a hydro-electric power dam on the Kamchay River

near Kampot soon after it wins expected approval from the National Assembly, said

an official at the Ministry of Industry, Mines and Energy (MIME).

Bun Narith, deputy general director of the General Department of Energy at MIME,

confirmed that negotiations with the Chinese state-owned company Sinohydro about

the dam's construction were completed in late February.

"And now the company is just waiting for a guarantee letter from the Cambodian

government that will be soon approved by the National Assembly," Narith said.

He said the senior minister at the Ministry of Economy and Finance had signed the

project paper and already sent it to the Council of Ministers.

"And now I have heard that the project paper has already been sent to the National

Assembly."

Nin Saphon, vice chairman of the National Assembly's ninth commission (public works,

transport, telecommunications, post, industry, mines, energy and commerce), said

that her commission had not yet received the dam building project paper.

The dam project is planned for the Kamchay River, 15 km north of Kampot town, in

Mak Prang commune, Kampot district. It has caused concern to both NGOs and some members

of the public because of a lack of public participation in its feasibility study,

environmental impact assessment and social impact assessment.

Concern was expressed that the dam would flood 2,600 hectares in the Bokor National

Park, adversely affecting wild animals and the livelihoods of people who harvest

bamboo and rattan from the forest, and increasing the risk of malaria and dengue

fever.

Narith said that in the final negotiations the Cambodian government agreed that Sinohydro

would build a 110-meter-high dam on the Kamchay River, two kilometers upstream from

the scenic Tek Chhu waterfall. It will produce 193 megawatts of electricity.

The company had agreed to three local demands that it had been resisting: to supply

electricity to Kampot city and province (rather than transmitting it all to Phnom

Penh), to use a high proportion of Cambodian labor, and to allow continued access

to bamboo cutters.

"We asked the company to supply electricity to the people in Kampot and to hire

at least 90 percent Khmer workers when the project starts," Narith said. "And

the company will not prohibit people who cross the site to cut bamboo during the

four years' construction."

Narith said the project will cost $280 million. It is thought to be China's single

biggest investment in Cambodia. In the contract, signed on February 23, the Cambodian

government allows Sinohydro to manage the power plant for 30 years after completion

of the dam in 2010.

The Kamchay River area has been the subject of interest from hydro-electric power

prospectors since the early 1960s.

A study carried out a decade ago by Canadian firms Pomerleau International, Hydro-Quebec

and Experco, estimated that a hydro-electric power plant at Kamchay could generate

469 gigawatt-hours a year and reap $55 million a year from the sale of electricity.

But early attempts to get the project underway halted in the mid 1990s, when the

Canadian International Development Agency (CIDA) withdrew funding for the Hydro-Quebec-Pomerleau

feasibility study.

Narith said the last feasibility study was completed in late 2002 by the other Canadian

firm, Experco.

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