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Relocation site has villagers worried

Villagers facing relocation from the site of the planned Lower Sesan 2 dam in Stung Treng province were told last week that they would be moved 15 kilometres from the river they rely on for fishing, a commune chief said yesterday.

Seak Mekong, commune chief in Sesan district’s Srekor commune, said villagers had suspected they would be moved to the proposed relocation site, in Sdao commune, but had their suspicions confirmed in a meeting he attended with officials from the ministries of agriculture and energy.

“The authorities have found a new village on the other side of the river,” he said, adding that officials were still inspecting the site.

“It’s far away – 15 kilometres – from the [Sesan] river.”

Mekong said five villagers had been invited to inspect the site in mid-January – being told it was a possible relocation site for 445 families within the planned reservoir’s 33,000-hectare zone – and had found it lacking in arable land, basic infrastructure and fishing opportunities.

“They’re worried about the new location,” Mekong said, echoing concerns raised by villagers at a forum on the dam in the capital last month.

“What about the fruit trees?” cried one villager at that forum.

“It takes a lot of time for us to grow more at our new sites.”

NGO Forum on Cambodia research suggests the majority of families in Sesan district and surrounding areas rely on agriculture for their primary income; however, some villagers have said their reliance on fishing has been underestimated.

Cambodia’s Royal Group and Chinese company Hydrolancang International Energy announced in November they would build the $781 million, 400-megawatt dam where the Sesan and Srepok rivers meet.

Electricity Vietnam International reportedly withdrew from the project after at one stage holding a 51 per cent stake.

Royal Group and government officials visited Mekong’s commune last week, asking him to sign forms letting them clear area inside the reservoir zone.

“I had to sign this, because they have already agreed... to develop it,” he said.

To contact the reporters on this story: Sen David at david.sen@phnompenhpost.com
Shane Worrell at shane.worrell@phnompenhpost.com

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