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More families accept dam relocation offer

Villagers living in the reservoir zone of the Lower Sesan II dam attend a community forum at their village in Stung Treng province
Villagers living in the reservoir zone of the Lower Sesan II dam attend a community forum at their village in Stung Treng province earlier this year. Kimberley McCosker

More families accept dam relocation offer

Seventy families living close to the site of Cambodia’s largest hydropower dam project have accepted a resettlement package from the Hydro Power Lower Sesan II company.

The families were each given $6,000 and a plot of land at the relocation site, which is about 15 kilometres from their village of Sre Sronok in Kbal Romea commune, in Stung Treng province’s Sesan district.
Sovan Piseth, deputy governor of Sesan district, said a company representative and provincial officials met villagers on Saturday.

“According to the agreement between the authorities and the company, each family was to be offered five hectares of farmland and a 1,000-square-metre plot of land, including a house,” he said. “However, the 70 families demanded $6,000 instead of the house because they said they already have houses and they can move them to the new location.”

Chan Phally, Kbal Romeas commune council member, who was one of the villagers to accept the compensation offer, said that the company – a joint venture between Cambodia’s Royal Group and China’s Hydrolancang International – had already built roads, a school, health centre and market at the new site.

“The company has not given us the $6,000 now, but said it will give us it step by step since they are afraid that the villagers might take the money but not move their houses,” he said.

Kao Vang Iv, a representative of Hydro Power Lower Sesan II, said some of the villagers had agreed to the original offer of compensation, including the company-built house.

“Now the company has agreed with their request and we are working with the local authorities in order to measure and distribute the land to them.”

In May, the company will hold a “lucky draw” for those who have opted to take a plot of land with a pre-built house, while those who chose to take cash will be given $1,000 in May to fund the rebuilding of their house at the new site and, once the homes are re-erected, the remaining $5,000 after the work is complete.

Cambodia has commissioned numerous hydropower projects in the past two decades in an attempt to meet its energy needs. The government touts the dams as environmentally friendly solutions to an energy crisis, but critics argue that the environmental and social impacts far outweigh the potential benefits.

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