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China pledges hydro-dam speed-up

China pledges hydro-dam speed-up

A Chiness state delegation has pledged to accelerate the implementation of hydro-electric dam projects now under construction by Chinese firms, officials said yesterday.

Eang Sophalleth, personal assistant to Prime Minister Hun Sen, said that the promise was made during a meeting in Phnom Penh yesterday between the Premier and Zhang Xiaoqiang, vice-chairman of the National Development and Reform Commission of China.

“I called for a meeting, which included the Chinese hydro-dam developers, to encourage them to speed up to implement their projects,” Eang Sophalleth quoted Zhang Xiaoqiang as saying.
Minister of Industry, Mines and Energy, Suy Sem, could not be reached for comment yesterday.

He previously told The Post that five dams are under construction by Chinese developers in Cambodia and feasibility studies were being conducted into another four.

China-backed Kamchay Dam in Kampot province is due to be completed in 2012 and four dams are under construction in Koh Kong province – the 246-megawatt Stung Tatay dam; the 338-megawatt Stung Russey dam and Chrum Krom, Chhay Areng and Stung Atay dams - are due to be completed by 2015.

Ame Trandem, Mekong campaigner for conservation group International Rivers, said that without proper oversight the costs of hydropower dams could outweigh the benefits.

“Rather than speeding up dam construction, Cambodia should err on the side of caution,” she said via email.

Chith Sam Ath, executive director of NGO Forum in Cambodia, said that the dam development process should be a participatory process.

“We need to be consulting the affected communities… to ensure that the hydropower [dams] will not impact the environment and the livelihood of the people will not be worse off,” said Chith Sam Ath.

Yang Tianyue, spokesman for the Chinese embassy in Cambodia, said that he could not comment specifically on dams.

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