VILLAGERS in Stung Treng province say they are increasingly worried about the likely effects of a US$816 million hydropower dam slated for construction on the Sesan River, as a Vietnamese firm moves to start clearing land around the dam site.
Beang Teang, a representative from Sre Kor village in Sesan district, said local residents had heard the company was currently transporting cement and steel for the dam’s construction and had expressed fears about the impacts – including floods – likely to result from the project.
“We are very concerned about the dam project,” he said. Chorn Pang, from nearby Phlouk village, said he was also worried about the degradation of water quality and the effect of increased flooding on local agriculture.
The 400-megawatt Lower Sesan II dam, a project of the Vietnam-based Power Engineering Consulting Joint Stock Company 1 (PECC1), is set to begin construction next year, said sources close to the project.
Taing Sophanara, a researcher for Key Consultants Cambodia, the firm hired by PECC1 to conduct the Environmental Impact Assessment (EIA) for the project, said the company was set to start clearing the land at the dam site in April, with a formal groundbreaking – and compensation payments for affected locals – to begin next year.
He said he had submitted the EIA report to the Ministry of Environment three or four times and was now getting some feedback about technical issues in the last report he submitted to the ministry in December. He said the dam could impact about 300 square kilometres, adding that about 15,000 families are set to be compensated next year.
Khy Nheang, the chief of Sesan district’s Sre Kor commune, said commune councillors and PECC1 representatives were in the process of measuring the land of those likely to be displaced by the dam. The project is likely to impact over 300 families in his commune, he added, who will be relocated 15 kilometres from their present location.
China in the Cardamoms
China Huadian Group, a Chinese state-owned firm, announced Tuesday that it had signed agreements with the Export-Import Bank of China on Friday to finance the construction of a separate Cambodian hydropower project in Koh Kong province.
According to a notice posted on the Web site of the China Electricity Council, Huadian will begin construction on the 338-megawatt project next year, at an estimated cost of $558 million.
The notice does not give the exact name or location of the dam in Koh Kong, but in March, Huadian reported on its Web site that it was working on securing approval for a project called elesai in Chinese – a possible reference to the Lower Stung Russey Chrum dam, also a 338-megawatt project planned in Koh Kong.
China Huadian Group has also signed an agreement with the Cambodian government to construct two 50-megawatt coal-fired power plants, the China International Contractors Association reported last month. The planned location of the plants was not given.
Bunra Seng, country director of Conservation International, said he did not know which company was involved in the Lower Stung Russey Chrum project, but expressed concerns about the presence of so many workers in such a remote area.
“If there are many workers present, it could really affect the wildlife,” he said, adding that he had not yet seen an EIA of the project.
Authorities are also set this dry season to begin clearing trees from the Lower Stung Russey Chrum dam site in advance of its construction, he said, before the wood is legally auctioned off by forestry officials.