Villagers plea for delay to Sesan dam tests

Sen David / Khmer Times No Comments Share:
Sesan district villagers and NGO workers hold a press conference in Phnom Penh yesterday. KT/Mai Vireak

Representatives of villagers in Stung Treng’s Sesan district yesterday held a press conference in Phnom Penh to request the closing of the Lower Sesan ll Hydropower Dam’s doors be delayed by one month to allow villagers to prepare for expected floods.

The provincial government last month warned of impending floods because the company will be closing the dam’s doors for operational tests from July 15 to August 15.

The floods will affect villagers who have not accepted compensation from the dam’s builder and remain in Sre Kor and Kbal Romeas communes.

Yesterday, villagers and staff from the NGO Forum urged officials to delay the tests to allow remaining villagers more time to prepare.

Tek Vannara, NGO Forum executive director, said more time is needed to implement safety measures.

“They should delay the closing of the dam’s doors to give villagers time to prepare their properties against flooding,” he said. “If they delay, then maybe the company and authorities can also find a temporary place for the villagers to stay during the tests; they will need food and water security.”

Nearly 90 percent of villagers affected by the dam’s construction have accepted compensation and moved. The holdouts, about 180 families that include 700 people, are seeking a better deal or simply refuse to leave their ancestral lands.

Their plea for more time to prepare for the tests fell on deaf ears yesterday at the provincial hall.

Stung Treng provincial hall spokesman Meng Kong said the villagers were already given sufficient warning of the planned tests, and added the government has already prepared plans to ensure their safety.

“The company will run their tests as planned,” he said. “If the villagers remain there and there are floods, the authorities have 200 staff on call to assist them, as well as boats to save them in the case of emergencies.”

Om Savath, executive director of Cambodia’s Fish Action Coalition Team, said authorities should rethink their position and force the company to grant the delay.

“There are hundreds of people still living there,” he said. “The doors will close soon, so please, rethink this. These people need help.”

Construction of the 75-metre-high Lower Sesan ll Hydropower Dam began last year at a total cost of $816 million. By the end of 2018, all eight turbines are expected to be fully operational, generating 400 megawatts.

China’s Lancang Hydropower International Energy has a 51 percent stake in the project, Cambodia’s Royal Group owns 39 percent, and Vietnam’s EVN International owns 10 percent.

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