Green groups hit Cambodia dam plan

Site of the planned Lower Sesan 2 Dam in northeastern Cambodia. Environmental group say the hydropower plant fails to meet standards and will impact 80,000 people. (photo from International Rivers)

A planned hydropower northeastern Cambodian is drawing the ire of Southeast Asian environmental group who says the Lower Sesan 2 Dam fails to meet standards and will impact 80,000 people.

The 18 Cambodian and regional environmental organisations issued a statement Thursday expressing serious concerns about dam being funded by Chinese and Vietnamese companies.

In the statement, the group of civil-society organisations from Cambodia and the Mekong region stressed serious concerns that the environmental impact assessment for the project fails to assess the “extensive and severe” environmental and social impact of the dam, including transboundary impact in the neighbouring countries Laos, Thailand and Vietnam.

“The current EIA fails to meet standards as it only examines impacts in a limited area around the project site and does not assess far more-extensive impacts that will be felt by upstream and downstream communities in the Sesan, Srepok and Sekong River Basins, the Mekong River and Tonle Sap Lake,” Ame Trandem, Southeast Asia program director with International Rivers, said.

“More recent studies have predicted very severe impacts, including a 9.3% decrease in fish biomass across the entire Mekong Basin and reductions in sediment flows that will devastate access to food, nutrition and sources of livelihood for hundreds of thousands of people in the region,” Mr Ame said.

Echoing the concerns, Tek Vannara, executive director of the nongovernmental organisation Forum on Cambodia, said, “To date, communities have not been provided with adequate information about the project’s impacts and resettlement plans, and have not been afforded an opportunity to voice their concerns and have these considered in decisions on the project.”

“In particular, communities outside the reservoir area, living upstream and downstream of the project, will experience serious impact on local fisheries and livelihoods, but have not been consulted or offered any compensation,” he added.

The Lower Sesan 2 Dam is being developed by a consortium of Chinese, Cambodian and Vietnamese companies, including China’s Hydrolancang International Energy Co and Cambodia’s Royal Group. When complete, the dam will be about 75 meters high and 8 kilometres long, creating a 33,560-hectare reservoir. It will have generating capacity of 400 megawatts.

More than 5,000 people, most of whom are indigenous, will be forcibly resettled if the project proceeds.

The dam is just below the confluence of the Sesan and Srepok tributaries and about 25 km from the Mekong River.

Preconstruction work on the project is already under way and substantive construction of the dam will begin in January. Closure of the river is expected to be complete by the same month. According to plans for the project, substantive construction will take 35 months.