Logo of Phnom Penh Post newspaper Phnom Penh Post - New lease of life for KR era Stung Chinit Dam

New lease of life for KR era Stung Chinit Dam

New lease of life for KR era Stung Chinit Dam

The Government plans to rebuild the Khmer Rouge-era Stung Chinit irrigation dam in

Kampong Thom province, originally constructed using the forced labour of 100,000

people in 1976 and destroyed in 1989.

Veng Sokon, Under Secretary of State of Water Resources and the Meteorology Ministry

said it would take two years to redesign the dam and put out the construction to

tender making for a start date late 2002 or early 2003.

The decision to rebuild the dam has been supported by initial results of a feasibility

study conducted by a group of NGOs.

The cooperative study by the Groupe de Recherche et d'Échanges Technologiques,

(GRET), BCEOM-Société Francais d'Ingenière, and the Centre d'Étude

de Développement Agricole Cambodgien (CEDAC)found that a reconstructed dam

could double and even triple the crop production for the farmers through improved

irrigation.

The study says that the yield of wet-season rice will increase 38 per cent - from

1.4 to 1.9 tonnes per hectare. This would average out to an extra 1.032 tonnes per

family, increasing each family's income by 344,000 riel a year.

Much of this would follow from the introduction of double-cropping quick-growth (IR)

rice.

Watermelon production would double and other vegetable production could increase

economic return by 48 per cent.

The total income of each affected farming family would increase by an average 420,000

riels per year.

An Asian Development Bank report and recommendation made in March 2000 strongly favoured

the Stung Chinit dam rebuilding. It said the dam would increase agricultural productivity

and farmers' incomes, and stimulate the rural economy of Kampong Thom province through

the provision of irrigation and drainage, agriculture extension, and rural roads

and markets.

The dam is expected to provide a host of direct and indirect benefits. Irrigation

would provide opportunities for cultivation and a second wet season rice crop and

new dry season crops including vegetables and legumes.

The project is also expected to result in higher fish yields in paddy areas.

Stung Chinit irrigation was begun by the Khmer Rouge regime on January 1, 1976 and

finished on January 6, 1977, mainly in Santuk and Baray districts, using forced labor

of around 100,000 people from Kampong Thom and Kampong Cham provinces under the direction

of North-East region. It had an irrigation capacity of 12,000 ha.

After the KR were expelled the dam fell into decline, variously affected by grenade

fishing, conflicting fishing and agriculture activities, and conflict between people

living upstream and downstream. In 1989 the neglected scheme was gradually damaged

by vandalism.

Now the dam will be rebuilt, not with the picks and shovels of forced labour, but

a $20.5 million loan by the ADB.

The Bank's March 2000 report said this would consist of about $9.3 million (45 percent)

in foreign exchange and $11.2 million (55 percent) in local currency costs.

When asked what the environmental downside of the dam might be, Sokon said only 22

families upstream would be adversely affected.

He said that the government would pay them compensation.

Khim Sophana, senior officer of CEDAC and a participant in the third study said that

according to the local people, the reconstructed dam would not cause floods or damage

livelihoods as long as it was no higher than the original "Pol Pot" design.

He said villagers both downstream and upstream wanted to join the water management

committee to make sure the water will not cause trouble for them.

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