of 74 indigenous minority villages in Ratanakkiri province have
prepared a letter calling on Prime Minister Hun Sen to halt
construction of a dam that they say will devastate the flow and
biodiversity of the Sesan River, endangering the livelihoods of tens of
thousands, a plea timed to coincide with the premier's scheduled visit
to the province this week.The letter is to be
delivered to provincial officials today, two days after the launch of a
weeklong trade fair in the province intended to facilitate investment
opportunities in the so-called "development triangle" of neighbouring
border areas in Cambodia, Thailand and Laos.
Meach Mien, project coordinator of the 3S Rivers Protection Network,
said Sunday that Hun Sen was expected to arrive in Ratanakkiri this
week to formally open National Road 78, though officials could not
confirm the details of the visit.
He said village representatives believed the prime minister was the
only person who could act on their concerns that the planned Lower
Sesan II dam would exacerbate flooding and river degradation problems
caused by dams that had already been built - notably the Yali Falls dam
"The purpose of the statement to Hun Sen is, for one, to help to find a
solution for existing problems, and also, relating to the Lower Sesan
II dam, they want the prime minister to find a new alternative," he
The letter also calls on local authorities to explore small-scale,
decentralised power sources such as solar panels and micro-hydropower
dams. An environmental impact assessment (EIA), commissioned by the Ministry of Environment and
completed by Key Consultants Cambodia in July 2008 for the Power
Engineering Consulting Joint Stock Company 1, found that more than
5,000 people would be displaced by the dam, and that about 30,000
hectares of forest would be submerged as a result of its construction.
The letter to Hun Sen says that a new EIA should be conducted because
the producers of the previous one did not consult the tens of thousands
of villagers who stand to be affected by the dam.
Meach Mien expressed frustration that, regardless of their findings,
EIAs have previously had little influence on major projects such as the
Lower Sesan II dam.
"Actually, for me, the EIA is only a report, but after conducting that
they keep [the original plan] - nothing changes," he said in an
interview in Ratanakkiri last week.
Pich Dun, secretary general of the National Mekong Committee, said
Sunday that government officials and employees of the company building
the US$816 million dam - Electricity Vietnam - were aware of the
In response to them, he said, the capacity of the dam had been revised downwards from 450 megawatts.
"I think that the government already discussed this, and I think many
of the stakeholders concerned agreed that the dam could generate about
400 megawatts. That was the last discussion," he said.
Construction of the Lower Sesan II dam is set to be completed in 2014.
The dam is being funded through a build-operate-transfer (BOT) scheme,
and though officials have been unable to confirm when control of the
dam will be transferred to the Cambodian government, the normal period
for such schemes is 30 to 40 years.
Meach Mien said the government had failed to secure a single
power-purchase agreement for the sale of the electricity generated by
the dam, despite the fact that officials have said it would generate
revenue from foreign sales.
He added: "The experience from the upstream dams, firstly from the Yali
Falls dam and then the five other dams that were built, is that the
water quality has changed since the building of the dams."
Kham Nav, deputy governor of Voeun Sai district, said that since
construction of the Yali Falls dam in Vietnam began in 1993, the river
had been increasingly prone to flooding.
"The river has been flooding at least three times a year, and the level of the water has become irregular," she said.
"Fish have declined, and the ecosystem has changed now - before, we
could see many birds and fish, but now there are almost none."
Lower Sesan 2 dam
Located on the Sesan River, just below the confluence of the Srepok River in Cambodia's Stung Treng Province Province, the large 400MW, $816 million Lower Sesan 2 hydropower…