Construction of Lower Sesan Dam to Start in 2014

Construction of the Lower Sesan 2 Dam in Stung Treng province will begin in 2014 and the government will spend next year relocating some 5,000 people from villages that are located in the dam’s future reservoir area.

Located near the confluence of the Sesan and Srepok rivers in Stung Treng, the 400-megawatt hydropower dam was approved by the Council of Ministers on Friday, but neither a start date nor financial compensation for the affected communities has been announced.

Siek Mekong, the commune chief of Sesan district’s Srekor commune—which is located in the 33,560-hectare reservoir area —said yesterday that the government had informed commune officials that the start date was some time in 2014.

“The government and authorities will spend the entirety of 2013 to resolve the matter with affected families who will be relocated for the construction of the Lower Sesan 2 Dam,” Mr. Mekong said. “The construction will start in 2014.”

The companies involved in the project have not been named, he said.

“We are asking the government to compensate the affected families with market prices [for land] and especially to provide proper health care at the relocation sites,” he said.

“We also want the government to promise us that our local villagers, the affected families, will be given free-of-charge for 10 years the power that is generated from this dam.”

A 2009 study showed that while 5,000 villagers will be resettled, an estimated 100,000 people could be impacted by the dam’s effects on the river, particularly in terms of reduced access to fish, which is the foremost source of protein for millions of Cambodians.

Kith Meng, chairman of the Royal Group, referred all questions to the government. Royal Group along with an unnamed Chinese company and Vietnam’s state electrical company are behind the project, though no specific details have been released.

A local community representative, Chan Thon, said relocation would still be detrimental to the livelihoods of the thousands who will be forced to move.

“We will be displaced and we will not be able to follow our tradition in harvesting the products and sub-products in the forest as well as our fishing.”

On the heels of the Sesan Dam’s approval was the groundbreaking yesterday of the Xayaburi Dam site in Laos. Both projects will prove to be a great loss for the region, said Ame Trandem, Southeast Asia program director for environmental group International Rivers.

“Both the Xayaburi and the Lower Sesan 2 Dam threatens the productivity of the Mekong River and all of the economic value that it gives to the region and its people. These projects should be cancelled,” she said.

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