More than 100 households in Srekor and Kbal Romea communes will be forced to brace for flooding when the doors of the Lower Sesan II dam are closed in Stung Treng province next month.
The villagers, among them Lao and ethnic Phnong people, have so far rejected compensation offers to relocate and are now at risk of being submerged.
According to Stung Treng Provincial Deputy Governor Duong Pov, the doors will be shut for a month from July 15 to August 15 to conduct a technical test.
“The test involves filling the reservoir with water to examine how effective it is,” he said.
Pov added that the test is part of the preparation for the official closure of the dam’s doors on September 25, when 1 of 5 turbines will start operations.
The 400-megawatt hydropower project has been under construction for over three years and promises to boost the Kingdom’s electricity supply, lower costs and spur development.
But opponents fear the project could destroy local ecosystems and threaten the traditional livelihoods of the Phnong indigenous people.
Kbal Romea community representative Dam Samnang, who knew about the closure only through social media, said the authorities did not inform the 58 affected families in his commune about the oncoming inundation.
“It is a serious breach of human rights,” he said.
According to Pov, motorboats and 100 officials will be employed to assist the 121 households that are refusing to leave their homes, which are located upstream of the dam, when the flood begins.
“[Authorities] have already prepared to help them [but] whether or not they believe in us is their own issue,” he said.