Rising waters caused by heavy rains and the closure of the Lower Sesan II hydropower dam’s gates reached Stung Treng’s Srekor village on Friday, causing some of the village’s last holdouts to begin evacuating.
Threatened by the Lower Sesan II dam reservoir’s rising waters, Srekor village and nearby Kbal Romeas village continue to house hundreds of ethnic minority villagers who refuse to abandon their ancestral homes.
Srekor village representative Fut Khoeun said water levels rose substantially on Friday, leaving parts of the village under more than a metre of water.
“At some locations, the water is about 1 metre high, and some others are about 1.5 metres,” said Khoeun. “About 20 to 30 households face serious flooding and [their inhabitants] left for a safer place temporarily,” Khoeun said.
Khoeun added that besides damaging property, the flooding would damage the papaya, banana, melon, gourd and sugarcane crops that the villagers depend on for their livelihoods.
Stung Treng Provincial Hall spokesman Men Kong said that the water has begun to recede.
“There is no serious situation. [The villagers] moved their cattle to a safe location,” Kong said. “People could travel in and out of their houses to safe places via small boats.” He added that a force of 50 provincial authorities, including police, Military Police and medics was stationed near the village and prepared to assist its residents.
Though Kbal Romeas village did not yet experience flooding, villagers there continue to log bamboo branches in hopes of making their homes float in the event of a flood.
The executive director of NGO Forum, Tep Vannara, said that his organisation yesterday morning held a meeting in Srekor with about 100 participants from Srekor and Kbal Romeas. Yesterday’s gathering, he said, took place in order to prepare for another meeting taking place today in Stung Treng town, in which around 35 representatives from both communities will meet with representatives of the Ministry of Mines and Energy and the provincial government.
“The villagers want to remain in the old village, and if the old village floods, they want to move to a safe area nearby,” said Touch Thou, NGO Forum’s policy monitoring coordinator. “They don’t want the company or the government to force them to move from the old village.”
Thou said that members of 12 NGOs, including 3SPN, My Village and NGO Forum would also be present.
Additional Reporting by Martin de Bourmont