More than 100 families, including Bunong ethnic community members who have been impacted by the Lower Sesan II dam in Stung Treng province, complained on Monday about the shortage of clean water.
The villagers, who have rejected compensation for relocation and currently live on higher ground about 5km from their now-flooded villages in Sesan district’s Kbal Romeas commune, said a pond dug by the provincial authority in the area has not produced any water.
Srang Lanh, a representative of the families, told The Post on Monday that water in the dam’s reservoir is not clean enough for consumption. He said the water is smelly and could be harmful to villagers’ health, while rainwater has also run out.
“The provincial authority is digging a pond at the Tuol Sre Veng area where the villagers are residing, but it has not produced any water yet. We are worried about that,” he said.
Another villager, Khem Chamroeun, said the villagers currently rely on water from a well on an old rice field about 1km from their makeshift homes. But he said the well cannot supply enough water for the more than 100 families.
Chamroeun said more well-off villagers choose to buy water from Stung Treng provincial town, while the other villagers resort to water from the dam’s reservoir and clean it with alum for consumption.
“On top of the clean water shortage, the 125 families from Kbal Romeas and Sre Kor villages are also struggling to make ends meet due to a shortage of farmland,” he said.
Chamroeun said that besides farming in the community forest, the villagers also return to fish at their now-flooded villages.
Lat Vibol, who has also rejected compensation from the government, said the provincial authority has agreed to let them live in the area and promised to build infrastructures such as road, a health centre, a school and two ponds for them.
“The pond is 375sqm wide and 4m deep. It is being dug in the centre of the safe hill, but it has not produced any water yet.
“Another pond of the same size has been planned for the Tuol Sre Tbeng area early next week,” he said, adding that the authority has also promised to register their community forest land.
Minh Sota, a representative of 37 families from Sre Kor village, said on Monday that her community is more fortunate.
She said the authorities are repairing National Road 78 leading to the area where they reside. She expressed hope that the road will make transportation in and out of the community more convenient.
“Our current livelihood is better than before, but authorities have not agreed to pay compensation for the damage of our houses and crops,” she said.
Sota said the villagers have demanded compensation based on market prices as well as the number of trees and the size of their farmland.
However, the authorities have so far agreed to pay only $1,000 per house and $10 for each tree – an offer rejected by the villagers.
Provincial and Sesan district authorities could not be reached for comment on Monday.