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Ratanakkiri deaths ‘avoidable’

Ratanakkiri deaths ‘avoidable’

Better communication from authorities in Cambodia and Vietnam might have prevented the deaths of villagers and the destruction of homes in Ratanakkiri at times when water has been released from Vietnam’s Yali Falls dam, researchers said yesterday.

Speaking at a national workshop about the Yali Falls dam and its effects on Cambodian communities along the Sesan River, postgraduate researcher Lor Rasmey said information given to villagers about the dam’s water releases was often slow and unreliable.

Thirty-two people, he said, had died as a result of water releases from the hydroelectric dam – which is about 70 kilometres upstream from the border – between 1996 and 2000, while about 950 had died due to water-quality problems.

Rasmey had been part of a research team that had focused on three vulnerable villages in O’Yadav district.

“Our recommendation is to improve the notification system, strengthen collaboration with all stakeholders, improve the capacity of local people to cope with disasters, prepare safe places for local people... and improve the system for analysing water levels,” he said at the Royal University of Phnom Penh.

Because of flood damage, the average monthly income of 3,434 households had plummeted from $109 to $46, Rasmey added.

Forum participant Chhav Swan, 58, said villagers needed accurate and fast information when water was released.

But Mao Hak, director of river works at the Ministry of Water Resources, said Vietnam released water from the Yali Falls dam at a rate of 600 cubic metres per hour, which was not likely to cause problems.

If Vietnam wanted to do this, the protocol was to inform Cambodia’s National Mekong Committee, he said. “I’m not sure about the deaths you are referring to. But the communication system is causing no problems.”

In 2010, the Post reported that an entire village in Ratanakkiri, Andoung Meas, had been virtually wiped off the map when the Yali Falls dam’s floodgates were opened after Typhoon Ketsana struck in September 2009.

To contact the reporter on this story: Vong Sokheng at [email protected]

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