Residents of Stung Treng province’s Preah Romkil commune are reluctant to express their concerns over Laos’s Don Sahong hydropower dam since it was endorsed last month by Prime Minister Hun Sen, despite the impacts of the dam already being keenly felt, activists and researchers said yesterday.
Hun Sen last month announced his support of the controversial project, expressing hope that Lao would sell electricity to Cambodia at a low price, but activist Chum Hout said yesterday that since the endorsement, community members are fearful of lodging complaints. “We appeal to Samdech [Hun Sen] to stop supporting this project . . . Fishing has seriously fallen,” Hout said.
A group of environmentalists believe that the construction, just 1 kilometre away from the commune, is affecting water quality in the area, and damaging the fishing and tourism industries.
Activist Chhum Kanika, 23, inspected the dam on Tuesday and maintained that stone blasting has hurt the fishing industry and encouraged Irrawaddy dolphins to migrate elsewhere. “Before, there were about seven dolphins . . . and right now we do not see any at all,” Kanika said. “Tourists come to see the Irrawaddy dolphins. If there are no dolphins, there will be no tourists.”
Hem Odom, a Cambodian independent researcher and hydro dam consultant, agreed that construction had impacted the dolphins, saying it interfered with their echolocation.
Government spokesman Phay Siphan said the activists should appeal to the Ministry of Foreign Affairs since the dam is not in Cambodia.