The Kampot Pier Project – a $10 million effort to attract tourists by building a passenger pier – could harm communities due to insufficient consultation, a new NGO report and community representatives claim.
ActionAid’s report, published yesterday and titled Casting a Wider Net – More Consultation needed for the Kampot Pier Project, found that while the pier itself might benefit communities by fostering tourism, authorities – the ministries of tourism, environment and land management – largely failed to consult affected communities and inform them about the impacts of the project, which is almost fully funded by the Asian Development Bank (ADB).
The report acknowledges that the potential impacts of the pier are uncertain but says they could include pollution and damage to fisheries if the project is not properly managed. As the Kampot Bay ecosystem is vulnerable, the report argues, consultation of local communities is vital.
“We fish for our main income to finance our families, so when the company fills up the wetland [to build the pier], it will destroy the mangrove trees in the flooded forests, and we are concerned that the aquatic ecosystem cannot survive,” Sim Him, a Trapeang Sangkae community representative, said in an interview. “In the future, it might be difficult for us to catch the fish . . . More people may decide to migrate.”
Him said his community was among those that were not consulted, and while he acknowledged the potential advantages of developing tourism, he said the pier might indirectly affect 300 hectares of the community’s flooded forests.
Environment Ministry spokesperson Sao Sopheap said he was unaware of specifics, but that “each project needs to have a proper environmental and social impact assessment”.
Cambodian Center for Human Rights Executive Director Chak Sopheap said in an email that this lack of consultation was not an exception.
“Lack of consultation is a common theme in Cambodian development projects, with communities frequently not learning about planned development until work is already underway and effects on the community’s land and livelihoods have already materialized,” she said in an email. “In order to ensure that human rights are respected, it is essential that businesses and government engage in meaningful prior consultation.”
Provincial Tourism Department chief Soy Syhol rejected the allegations. “As far as I know, the ADB working group, together with the relevant local authorities, already informed the communities and held discussions with them,” he said.
He argued that as “the pier is far from the communities”, it would not affect them. Additionally, a billboard in Kampot informed the public, he said.
“People are very excited to receive the benefits from this pier project,” Syhol said.
But Sok Kao, a Kampong Samaky fishing community representative, disagreed. “I only knew [about the project] because I joined a meeting with an NGO . . . Although the pier project is not close to our commune, we also have some concerns regarding the fishing,” he said.
“We are also concerned about pollution . . . from the fuel or oil of the ships. And we are not sure if they will allow us to continue fishing at the pier area.”