Gov’t Hears Concerns on Hydropower Projects

Representatives from communities living near current and proposed hydropower dam projects in Cambodia had the opportunity to voice concerns Tuesday about hy­dro­power development during a two-day forum in Phnom Penh.

Officials from the Ministry of En­vironment told the forum that the gov­ernment is studying the po­tential negative environmental and so­cietal impacts through assessments by third-party consultants.

However, several community rep­resentatives complained they have not received information on these environmental impact assessments or information on how they will be affected by hydropower dams.

“Has your working group, who does the EIAs, been providing the results back to the villagers?” Sem Sopagna, a representative of fishermen who live in Kompong Chhnang province, asked the min­istry officials.

Puth Sorithy, director of the En­vironment Ministry’s EIA department, said his ministry is still considering which portions of the EIA reports to share with the public be­cause they contain confidential in­formation about dam developers.

“I am not closing [EIA] reports,” said Puth Sorithy after several community members raised concerns about access to the reports.

“We are considering the participation of villagers,” he added.

The government requires EIAs for all potential hydropower dam sites that will produce more than 1 megawatt of energy, according to Hem Kol Bot, secretary of state with the Ministry of Environment.

“Development always has a negative impact, but the government wants sustainable development…so the Cambodian government is trying to minimize the impact,” he told the forum.

Representatives from the Min­is­try of Industry, Mines and Ener­gy—a key player in hydropower development in Cambodia—were absent from the forum, although they were invited, according to officials from the NGO Forum on Cam­­bodia, the event organizer.

Chhit Sam Ath, NGO Forum ex­ec­utive director, later said by phone that he be­lieved the Environment Min­istry is committed to working with communities living near dam sites “to minimize the impacts of all the de­vel­opment projects.”

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