Responding to a request from US actress Angelina Jolie, Prime Minister Hun Sen said Tuesday he will stop a dam project within a protected area in Samlot district, Battambang province, funded by the Academy Award winner.
Speaking to reporters in front of the Council of Ministers after a 20-minute meeting with Jolie, the prime minister said he will not continue with the hydropower project, which had been criticized by locals and environmentalists.
“We decided to abandon the hydro-electricity plan, though we are facing an electricity shortage, because it is better to change the plan to preserve the forest and wildlife,” Hun Sen said.
Jolie told reporters that she met with Hun Sen and government ministers to discuss five points, several of which addressed environmental issues.“We spoke a lot about the area in Samlot,” she said after the meeting. “We are working together on everything from wildlife to demining to different conservation efforts.”
Before meeting with Hun Sen, Jolie met with representatives of WildAid, which co-directs an environmental management project funded by Jolie within a 60,000-hectare site, where the dam was to be constructed, said WildAid co-director Steven Galster.
Galster said Jolie asked for information regarding the dam, which would have flooded a house she had specially built in the protected area and affected the villagers.
“It was going to flood a wildlife area and inundate a bunch of villages,” Galster said. “It wasn’t going to help anybody.”
A pre-feasibility study for the hydropower project was finished earlier this year, Oliver San Juan, design manager for Hyundai Consortium, said Tuesday.
The consortium includes Sung Jin Nchilbo, the Korean company that was funding the project, he said, and was in the process of creating a design plan.
Oliver San Juan said he had not been informed of Hun Sen’s decision, but that the company had already spent $1 million on the project.