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Hydro dams will affect ex-KR families

Hydro dams will affect ex-KR families

Around 2,500 former Khmer Rouge families in Battambang will have to move if plans

for two hydro-electric power dams on the Stung Sang Ke river are approved.

Pal Poun, deputy governor of Samlot district, said the proposed project would flood

four villages which are home to more than 11,000 people. Some 18,000 hectares of

farmland, 11 schools, a health care center, the local commune building and all the

area's new roads will go under water.

"This is bad news for our people," said Poun. "They only moved here

three years ago and now it looks like they will have to move somewhere else again."

Ith Praing, secretary of state at the Ministry of Industry, Mines and Energy, said

neither the government nor his ministry had as yet signed off on the project for

which there was currently no start date.

However he said the hydroelectric scheme, costing an estimated $75 million, was part

of the government's plan to improve the country's electricity supply.

Each of the dams, called Battambang I and II, would generate around 60 megawatts

of power, which would be used to supply power to Battambang, Pursat, Kampong Chhnang,

Phnom Penh, Siem Reap and Banteay Meanchey.

"As yet we have not given approval to any of the companies to study or build,"

he said. "[Four companies] have simply visited the sites to undertake a preliminary

investigation. After that they will write a proposal to the government."

Chim Lao Sroun, director of the Department of Water Resources and Meteorology in

Battambang, said interested companies had sent representatives to assess the viability

of the scheme for around 40 years. He acknowledged that the villagers would be affected

if the project went ahead.

Poun said the villagers had been displaced numerous times since the country slid

into civil war. However, when the Khmer Rouge was finally integrated into the government

in 1999, those people living in areas under KR control moved their homes to live

next to the river.

He said they were under the impression at the time that these homes would be their

last, and they would be able to grow fruit trees and farm to provide for the next

generation.

"My people definitely don't want to leave this place," he said. "But

if the government forces them to leave, then we will have no choice."

Poun said he did not know the current status of the deal, but said villagers were

worried. He asked the government to give fair warning of at least six months before

construction begins, as well as fair compensation to the villagers.

"This project will bring benefits to the nation, but it will also affect our

people here," he said. "We want our government to be rich, but we also

want stability in our lives."

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