The first stage of the controversial lower Sesan II hydropower dam in Stung Treng province will be complete in October 2017, Prime Minister Hun Sen said yesterday during a visit to the construction site.
The dam, which is expected to provide 400MW of power when it’s finally completed in 2018, has been a flashpoint for compensation battles and environmental concerns, and some 180 families in the area have yet to agree to relocate.
But in a Facebook message posted following a meeting with relocated community members on Wednesday, the prime minister pledged to improve living standards for the 630 families who have already agreed to relocate to Sesan district’s Kbal Romeas commune.
“Although the new community was just created, the government is paying attention and providing infrastructure that people need such as roads, schools and hospitals,” Hun Sen wrote. “People here have also received wooden or concrete houses according to their needs.”
The premier stressed that the government would continue to monitor the situation and improve living standards in the new village over the next five years. Still, some community members spoken to yesterday continued to express dissatisfaction with the relocation.
Siek Sarith, a 38-year-old villager who agreed to relocate, said he remains most worried about irrigation for his crops. “It’s still another three months [for my house] to be finished. What I worry about the most is about the source of water for our rice fields.”
Villagers, many of whom are Prov, Phnong and Lao ethnic minorities, have previously expressed fears that long-standing cultural traditions are at stake, citing the fact that ancestral graves will be buried under the new reservoir basin.
The government is currently in negotiations with the 180 families still refusing to move, but locals say it is unlikely they will agree to relocate.
“There’s no solution, because they say they will struggle to the death and remain in the village,” said Siek Mekong, a commune chief from Sesan district.