Agreement meets three key local demands
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
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
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
Narith said the last feasibility study was completed in late 2002 by the other Canadian