Logo of Phnom Penh Post newspaper Phnom Penh Post - An unsettling prospect

An unsettling prospect

Locals watch as Chinese engineers prepare to undertake a feasibility study for Stung Cheay Areng dam in November 2012
Locals watch as Chinese engineers prepare to undertake a feasibility study for the Stung Cheay Areng dam in November 2012. INTERNATIONAL RIVERS

An unsettling prospect

Resettlement studies are being carried out at the site of the proposed Stung Cheay Areng hydropower dam in Koh Kong province, officials said yesterday, amid suggestions that yet another Chinese company is now involved in the controversial project.

Tou Savuth, Thma Bang district governor, said staff from the Phnom Penh-based firm Social, Business and Khmer Research & Development (SBK) along with district and Ministry of Industry, Mines and Energy officials had been working in the area since Friday.

“The experts have been there … directly counting the villagers and homes, so that we know how many will be affected by the dam project,” he said.

The team had already estimated that some 400 families in three communes would be relocated to make way for the dam, Savuth said.

China Southern Power Grid unveiled the 109-megawatt dam project in 2010 before later shelving it. Another Chinese company, China Guodian Corporation, soon took over the project, but details about proposed construction have since been unclear.

A company representative from the Phnom Penh office of Chinese state-owned Sinohydro Corporation Limited – the world’s biggest hydropower construction company – said yesterday that his firm was now involved in the Stung Cheay Areng project, but said that he could not provide more details.

“The company is involved, [but] the project is very complicated,” he said.

More detailed responses would take a few days to gather, he added.

A separate source told the Post that SBK is carrying out research for Sinohydro, which finished building the 193-megawatt Kamchay hydroelectric dam in Kampot province in 2011.

An employee from SBK said yesterday that the firm had been contracted to undertake work in the area for a company, but added that he was not in a position to disclose information about the project without first seeking permission.

Savuth, the district governor, said that he did not recall the name of the Chinese company commissioning SBK or whether plans had been made to expand the dam’s size.

“A previous study suggested that the villagers must be relocated to a new site where they can farm,” he said. “[We] must relocate them because of the effects of the project.”

As previous plans had stood, only homes and farms would be affected, he added.

“But if the dam project is expanded, it will further affect some natural resources. It cannot be avoided.”

The dam, slated to be built at the edge of the Central Cardamom Protected Forest, is of great concern to environmental groups, which say the area is one of the most biologically diverse in the region.

International Rivers has said the dam would force at least 1,500 people off their land, while the reservoir would flood “the habitat of 31 endangered fauna species”.

In recent Post reports, villagers have expressed fears of losing access to their livelihood and education for their children.

In November, as opposition to the project heightened, But Buntenh and fellow members of the Independent Monks Network marched through forest in the Areng Valley to protest against the proposed dam.

Buntenh said yesterday that the latest work was a threat to the locals and that 100 monks planned to go there again to protest.

“They’re not going there to study the effects of the dams, but to tell the villagers to get ready to relocate. They told villagers that they have permission from the government, so they should prepare to leave.”

Ministry of Industry, Mines and Energy officials could not be reached yesterday, while Ministry of Land Management spokesman Beng Hong Socheat Khemro said he was not aware of the situation.

MOST VIEWED

  • First Cambodian woman graduates from Japan’s NDA military academy

    A few years ago, Meach Sithyka Jessica became the first-ever Cambodian woman to graduate from the US Military Academy at West Point, and since then her courage and determination has served as an inspiration for other Cambodian women. Similarly, Ly Chansocheata became the first Cambodian

  • Construction begins on $1.5B Kampot seaport

    The International Multi-Purpose Logistics and Port Centre, principally invested by Kampot Logistics and Port Co Ltd and projected to cost $1.5 billion, has officially broken ground in Bokor town, Kampot province. The multi-purpose logistics and port centre, located in Prek Tnaot commune, will be built on

  • Cambodia eyes key role in electronics, auto hubs in SEA

    Two roadmaps, part of the LDC’s economic diversification plan, were designed to see it through its migration process, but experts say the journey might be arduous, particularly in the presence of two established hubs in the region By 2028, Cambodia hopes to have exited the

  • Hun Neng, lawmaker and PM’s brother, passes away aged 72

    Hun Neng, chairman of the 4th Commission of the National Assembly, has passed away from heart disease at the age of 72 on the afternoon of May 5, according to the Ministry of Information. Hun Neng is the older brother of Prime Minister Hun Sen, and was

  • CCC team off on US business trip

    The Kingdom’s leading economists and private sector representatives have called on the US to renew its tax preferential status for Cambodian exports, as a Cambodia Chamber of Commerce (CCC) delegation departed for a weeklong business visit to the US, where they will meet with

  • PM meets with US business giants

    Prime Minister Hun Sen has met with a number of major US companies who have expressed interest in investing in Cambodia, in a meeting convened by the US-ASEAN Business Council (US-ABC). A delegation of companies – including Amazon, Meta, Chevron, ConocoPhillips, ExxonMobil, Ford, Visa and Pernod