Community representatives and civil society groups have hit out at plans for a petrol station on Preah Sihanouk province’s Koh Rong Samloem, expressing concern at the environmental impact the project will have on the tourist hotspot.
Sok Sokhom, director of the Cambodian National Research Organisation (CNRO), raised fears over oil spills impacting the environment after Preah Sihanouk Governor Yun Min gave the Oknha Tea Vichet-owned GTVC Import Co project in the island’s Koh Touch village the green light.
“The Preah Sihanouk administration must not allow the construction of a petrol station by the sea. [Governor Min] should reconsider the decision. If it is to be built, it should be on land far away from the beach in order to lessen the environmental impact.”
“If it is built by the sea, it will surely cause an impact. If there is an oil spill, it will flow directly into the sea. So the provincial administration should not allow this near the coast,” Sokhom said.
Sokhom added that the petrol station is to be built on a port planned for the island.
A letter released on February 20 by Min informed Vichet that Preah Sihanouk provincial administration had agreed in principle to his firm’s request to construct the station.
In the letter, the administration stressed that Vichet’s company had to respect and act on guidance given and prepare documents for the National Management Committee to review.
The environmental impact of the project must be evaluated before it can be authorised by the Ministry of Mines and Energy, it adds. There must also be cooperation between relevant local authorities and boundary parties.
Neang Sambun, a Koh Touch villagers representative, also expressed his concerns over the project. He said he feared for the livelihoods of those living in the area.
“I spoke of the impact on the area when they conducted a primary study on the construction of the station, but they didn’t listen. I told them of my fears, but these were not recorded. It seems like my opinions do not agree with those behind the construction of the petrol station.”
“This will impact the area greatly. The company’s owner only guarantees that petrol will be contained properly so as not to affect the environment. But if even a drop of oil falls in the sea, it spreads all over. I live by the sea, and if they construct the station poorly, it will affect the beach, tourists and us,” he said.
Sambun, who joined Preah Sihanouk working groups on a recent inspection of the area, added that the station is planned as part of a 200m by 30m port.
Chheun Chantha, commune chief of Koh Rong Samloem, told The Post on Tuesday that villagers had previously lodged complaints against the construction of the station, while he had filed a report at the provincial level
He said 132 families live permanently in the village, while 400 live there during tourist season. A total of 292 families live permanently in the district.
Samut Sothearith, director of the provincial environment department, said: “I have seen that the company is required to make a preliminary report and an environmental impact assessment [EIA] on the project for the whole area, to be put forward to the provincial department and the Ministry of Environment before a decision is made.”