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Impact assessment for Areng dam nears final steps as project looms

The Areng Valley in Koh Kong province
The Areng Valley in Koh Kong province. Environmental impact assessments on a dam project there are pushing ahead. INTERNATIONAL RIVERS

Impact assessment for Areng dam nears final steps as project looms

Companies contracted to carry out social and environmental studies of the proposed Stung Cheay Areng dam in Koh Kong province yesterday confirmed that the Sinohydro Group is set to renew work in the Areng Valley in the coming days.

The studies, which would pave the way for the government to approve the dam project, come just weeks after Prime Minister Hun Sen reportedly told opposition Cambodia National Rescue Party president Sam Rainsy the project would “be left to future generations”.

A Sinohydro representative yesterday confirmed that the company was in discussions to renew a contract to carry out “research” in the valley that was originally signed in February but expired in September.

Khnhel Bora, director of SBK Research and Development, which is drafting the resettlement plan for an estimated 1,300 ethnic Chorng villagers who will be displaced if the project proceeds, said Sinohydro “will conduct studies soon”.

“They will inform the provincial governor maybe next week or the week after [of the new activity]. We have not yet finished the resettlement plan and we need to identify a new relocation site to complete the plan.”

Um Serey Vuth of Sawac Consultants, who heads the environmental impact assessment (EIA) for the Areng dam, said following a meeting with Sinohydro and the provincial authorities yesterday he thought the EIA could be completed in under two months.

“ We will take a forest survey in that area, in detail, [and] make an inventory of how much forest has been lost,” he said.

Pich Siyun, provincial director of the Department of Mines and Energy, said Sinohydro had visited the area yesterday “because they need more land for villagers”.

Rainsy yesterday said that he would be “rather surprised” and “disappointed” if the dam moves ahead. He urged the government to act cautiously.

“[Hun Sen] said no decision had been made and it would be very unlikely that the government would make a decision in this mandate,” he said.

ADDITIONAL REPORTING BY PHAK SEANGLY

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