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Climate vulnerability in focus

Climate vulnerability in focus

111202_03
Villagers sit in their home on an area of cracked earth next to the Mekong River in Kbal Koh village, in Phnom Penh’s Russey Keo district. October’s floodwaters have now receded in many areas.

The Royal Government needs to address the environmental impacts not only from climate change but from man-made, water-based infrastructure such as dams before another natural disaster like the recent flooding claims hundreds of lives, community representatives said yesterday.

At the first NGO Forum conference on climate change, agriculture and energy held yesterday, community representatives were keenly aware of their vulnerability in facing natural disasters.

“The government needs to find a development partner to find a resolution to the vulnerability of villagers to natural disasters,” Hem Thy, from Takeo province, said. “We already see the impacts of climate change – rainy season with no water and dry season with flooding.”

Nen Sokit, from Mondolkiri province, agreed villagers in rural areas were the most vulnerable to natural disasters because commonly they were subsistence farmers.

“We are worried about climate change, but the new fear is the affect hydropower infrastructure will have on our lives,” Nen Sokit said. “It makes us scared now and for the future.”

The Lower Sesan II is a proposed hydroelectric dam on the Sesan River in Stung Treng province. The project is being carried out by the Cambodia-Vietnam Hydropower Company, which is 51 per cent owned by Electricity of Vietnam and 49 per cent owned by Kith Meng’s Royal Group of Cambodia.

The environmental impact assessment for the dam projected the dam’s reservoir would cause inundation upstream and would result in the relocation of thousands of villagers living along the Sesan.

Nen Sokit said villagers were so frightened of the impact of the dam on their land and livelihoods that many had already left their homes in search of work elsewhere.

“Our community really needs the government to stop the planned Lower Sesan II hydropower dam because this dam has no benefits for any villagers,” she said. “The electricity will be provided to towns or cities and if our community needs to use that electricity we will have to pay money.”

Tao Senghour, senior minister and first deputy director of Council for Agricultural and Rural Development, yesterday said that the government was never carefree when addressing climate change and was actively seeking to work with partners to address the situation.  

“We are also always careful in studying the affects of the hydropower dam and the benefit from this dam,” he said.

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