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Groundbreaking for two dams

Groundbreaking for two dams

A CHINESE hydropower company today will hold a ceremony in Phnom Penh marking the groundbreaking on a hydropower dam project in Koh Kong province, officials said Wednesday.

China Huadian Hong Kong Limited, a Chinese state-owned firm, has invested US$558 million to build the 338-megawatt Stung Russey Chrum Krom dam, which is set to come on line in 2013.

Eang Sophalleth, a spokesman for Prime Minister Hun Sen, told reporters that Yun Gongmin, China Huadian’s president, met the premier on Tuesday and informed him that Suy Sem, minister of industry, mines and energy, had agreed to start construction on the dam, which lies in the densely forested Cardamom Mountains.

“The construction of the dam is a symbol of the relationship between China and Cambodia, and shows a company’s achievement in Cambodia,” he quoted Yun Gongmin as saying.

On Monday, another Chinese company, the China National Heavy Machinery Corporation, broke ground on a separate project in Koh Kong. The $540 million Stung Tatay dam, which will produce 246 megawatts of electricity, is expected to be completed by 2014.

Pech Siyon, director of the Koh Kong provincial Department of Industry, Mines and Energy, said that after the construction of the two dams is completed, power costs in Koh Kong would plummet, alleviating the province’s reliance on electricity imported from Thailand.

He added that Koh Kong is currently consuming four megawatts of electricity from Thailand and is negotiating to purchase a further 11 megawatts to keep pace with industrial and consumer demand.

However, some critics are concerned that Cambodia’s spate of hydropower projects will end up irreversibly damaging the environment.

A 2008 report issued jointly by the US-based International Rivers and the Rivers Coalition in Cambodia stated that planning for hydropower projects had demonstrated “limited transparency or accountability to Cambodia’s citizens”, warning that “poorly conceived hydropower development could irreparably damage these resources and undermine Cambodia’s sustainable development”.

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