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PM insists worries about dam overblown

In February, Son Chhay wrote to the premier urging him to investigate illegal logging outside the legal clearing area slated for the Stung Tatai dam reservoir in Koh Kong province and the environmental destruction that would be wrought by the Stung Cheay Areng dam.

The 109-megawatt dam project in the Cheay Areng Valley is to be built by the Chinese state-owned firm Guodian Corporation at a cost of US$327 million.

In a reply dated June 11, the premier signalled the dam, which would flood thousands of hectares of protected forest in the Central and Southern Cardamoms, will go ahead despite the protestations from Son Chhay and conservationists.

Hun Sen wrote that “all kinds of experts” had visited the scene during a five-year social and environmental impact assessment completed in 2008 and determined ecological damage could be mitigated.

“But the government has noticed since the government began developing hydropower at Kamchay, Kirirom, Atai, Tatai, Lower Russey Chrum, Lower Sesan II and including Stung Cheay Areng, the opposition party never supports those projects,” Hun Sen wrote.

The premier wrote that 263 families that stood to lose their land would be compensated fairly in line with current market values.

Conservation groups have put the number of people set to be displaced at about 1,500 families and raised alarms that the project, which had been deemed unfeasible by a previous developer, will devastate one of Cambodia’s richest ecological sites for little gain.

Questions have also been raised as to why a subsequent SEIA approved in 2011, after the project changed hands, has not been made publicly available.

Son Chhay said yesterday the response indicated the prime minister had not made any independent investigation into concerns about the dam but simply taken the company’s word at face value.

To contact the reporter on this story: David Boyle at david.boyle@phnompenhpost.com

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