Cambodia embraces dirty energy fearing drought-driven shortages

Successive droughts in recent years have caused a power crisis in Cambodia, prompting the government to rapidly invest in and build coal and oil plants.

In a span of two years, two big generators and a protective fence have been erected in what once used to be a rice field in Cambodia’s Kandal province. These generators are part of a newly built heavy fuel oil plant, which supplies power not to the lightbulbs, phone chargers and fans of the stilted houses in its shadow, but to the power crisis-hit residents of the capital Phnom Penh.

Shortly after her neighbours in Lvea Aem district were ousted from their farmland with USD 20 per square metre in compensation, Sokheng, 43, who only wanted to be identified by her given name, said she watched the fields quickly – and loudly – transform into a power plant in about a year. Much of her community was incensed at the idea of a heavy fuel oil (HFO) plant in their backyard, fearing that power plants bring bad air and poor health.

“Many of them [my neighbours] were crying, screaming, because they did not want the power plant facility built here,” she said. “They want them [the plant constructors] to go somewhere that would not impact the villagers.”

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