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Donors offer to fund three dams in Cambodia

Donors offer to fund three dams in Cambodia

JAPAN, the World Bank and the Asian Development Bank (ADB) have approached Cambodia

offering to pay to build three dams, according to Cambodian National Mekong Committee

Vice-Chairman Khy Taing Lim.

Taing Lim said he was confident that offers made to him from overseas-based delegates

working for the three donors would soon be formalized. He said this could be as soon

as April.

If and when that happens, the dams would be the first in the Mekong River Commission's

(MRC) recently approved work program to be promised funding, he said.

The dams - in Battambang, Prek Thnot and Stung Chinit - will cost around $300 million.

Khy Taing Lim said he had verbally agreed to the donors' offers.

The work program calls for preparatory work to be done on the dam schemes, such as

resettlement plans for those people who will be displaced. Taing Lim confirmed that

the donors had asked "to go from start to finish."

He indicated that work could begin within months.

The program also calls for the Prek Thnot dam to be put to tender. However, Taing

Lim said the Japanese were willing to grant the money to pay for the 18-megawat dam.

The World Bank had offered to pay for the building of a 40-56 megawat dam on the

Battambang river, part of that basin's development with the Mongkol Borey river,

he said.

The ADB was looking to pay the costs of a five to eight megawat dam on Stung Chinit,

he said. Stung Chinit is part of the development of the Tonle Sap, which Taing Lim

said was Cambodia's number one priority area.

Money from both the World Bank and the ADB would be in the form of "soft"

loans, he said.

Taing Lim said that there were other components to the three developments, such as

thousands of hectares of land in each area that would be irrigated, and flood control

measures.

Taing Lim - an engineer who was project foreman on the 2,000-megawat James Bay One

dam in Canada - worked on the feasibility studies on the three Cambodian dam schemes

and others in the early to mid-1960s. "We have all the data... these projects

are ready to be built," he said.

He said there was nothing to stop donors from picking up such projects. There were

no security concerns and much of the feasibility work had been done years ago.

When asked about mitigating the effects of the dam on affected people, Taing Lim

said: "But [these] are [Mekong] tributaries, so I should not see any serious

damage. Of course we will flood some areas but now there is no forest."

"We have to implement these... we need electricity," he said.

When asked about what participation international and national NGOs have had, Taing

Lim said: "Is it possible they have not heard about this?"

"Not for these projects," he said. "For Sambor, probably. I think

we should discuss."

Sambor is a huge dam slated in Kratie of, at the least, 500-megawats but possibly

much larger. "As a member of the MRC [Sambor] is a priority, but [speaking]

as a Cambodian we don't need Sambor... except for the foreign currency," he

said.

Taing Lim said he was very excited about the donors' approaches, which would resurrect

his hydropower feasibility work done in the 1960s.

"Recently the government inaugarated National Route 6A. I remember doing the

survey for that road - in 1963," he said.

"It has taken so long... but now Cambodia is moving ahead," he said.

The approval of the 1996 Mekong Work Program by the MRC in December meant that all

the 97 projects have been "approved" to begin.

Seventy-four of the projects are "basinwide" - such as Sambor. The 23 others

- such as the three due to go ahead in Cambodia - are on a "country priority"

list.

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