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Eco groups slam Areng dam

People hold banners and block a road in Koh Kong province last month during a protest against the Areng Valley dam project.
People hold banners and block a road in Koh Kong province last month during a protest against the Areng Valley dam project. ADHOC

Eco groups slam Areng dam

Two major conservation groups yesterday said that the proposed Stung Cheay Areng dam in Koh Kong province should be scrapped, while protesters who have blocked developer Sinohydro Group from entering the site for several days headed to Phnom Penh to voice their concerns and discontent.

Conservation International (CI) and Flora and Fauna International yesterday released separate statements to Sawac Consultants for Development, a firm contracted by Sinohydro to carry out an environmental impact assessment for the project.

“Based on the negative impacts . . . we recommend that the dam project should not proceed in this ecologically sensitive area,” FFI said in its report.

The sentiments were echoed by CI.

“As a result of the high impacts and low economic potential of the Areng dam, CI advises both [Sawac] and the Ministry of Environment not to approve the construction of a dam in the Areng Valley by Sinohydro or any other company.”

In February, the previous concession holder for the project, China Guodian, said in its annual report that it had backed out because the dam made no financial sense.

Both of the groups outlined their objections to the project, which ranged from possible breaches of the international Convention on Biological Diversity, to which Cambodia is a signatory, to threats to people and endangered wildlife caused by relocation and construction.

CI official Toby Eastoe said yesterday that if Sinohydro and the government insist on the development, payments the firm is legally bound to make for environmental protection should be transparent, adding that a similar EIA conducted by Sawac had recommended such payments, but none had materialised.

“The Atai dam has been operational since last June and only NGOs and their donors have been supporting government protection,” he added.

Um Sereyvuth, director of the Sawac EIA team, said yesterday that Koh Kong’s provincial governor had told them to wait before trying to access the area again following a blockade of the road by locals.

“They say ‘not yet, not yet’, I don’t know if we can go soon. I have written back to the Ministry of Environment telling them about the problem,” he said.

While about 20 villagers continued yesterday to man the road into the proposed dam site to block Sinohydro from bringing in drilling and prospecting equipment, six ethnic Chorng representatives are due to arrive in Phnom Penh today to petition the ministries of mines and energy, environment and culture.

“We’ll not stop until we have an acceptable solution,” said Veng Vorn, one of the six.

ADDITIONAL REPORTING BY PHAK SEANGLY

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