The Cambodian government will not allow the construction of any new hydropower dams in the country until 2020, officials say.
Speaking yesterday to hundreds of electricity operators at a conference reviewing last year’s electricity services, Minister of Mines and Energy Suy Sem said, “Until 2020, there will be no construction of hydropower dams.”
Cambodia currently operates six hydropower dams in four provinces–Koh Kong, Pursat, Kampong Speu, and Kampot–supplying 1,000 Megawatts of energy per year, roughly 62 percent of the nation’s total electricity production.
During the period of hot weather in the middle of the year, when electricity consumption is higher, Cambodia needs to import electricity from its neighboring countries – Vietnam, Thailand, and Laos – through purchase power agreements, Mr. Sem said. He did not reveal how many megawatts are imported yearly.
“It is alright when it is the rainy season, but Cambodia faces shortages only in the dry season,” Mr. Sem said.
When asked about locations of future possible dam construction, Mr. Sem said that “constructions would be built wherever it is suitable for hydropower dams.”
“From now on until 2020, we have only the Lower Se San Dam, in Stung Treng province, which is currently under construction,” he continued.
Tek Vannara, executive director of the NGO Forum on Cambodia, welcomed the government’s move of ceasing construction on hydropower dams.
“From now to 2020, the government should open talks with relevant parties, including civil society, and people widely impacted by dam construction through the loss of forests, fishes and people’s health and welfare,” Mr. Vannara said.
He continued saying that if the government wants to build dams, it should do so with transparency in mind. “The dam construction talks or discussions should be made up based on technicalities, not on politics.”
Currently, Cambodia does not have a hydropower dam under construction on the Mekong River, which flows across roughly 500 kilometers of the country. This approach to the Mekong is in stark contrast to neighboring Laos’, which has been rapidly constructing dams along the river.
This behavior is a bad model for Cambodia and other Mekong countries to follow in the future, Mr. Vannara said.
The hydroelectric power plant on the Kamchay River in Kampot province. KT/ Chea Vannak