Vietnamese electricity giant EVN said Sunday that it would seek government approval this year to start developing the Lower Sesan II hydropower dam in Stung Treng province. The news raised concerns among local villagers and NGOs, who said yesterday it was unclear how the affected communities would be compensated for the dam’s social and environmental impact.
After Cambodian and Vietnamese officials signed a project agreement Sunday, EVN International CEO Nguyen Duc Tuyen said the company hoped to start construction of the $806 million dam before October.
According to the Lower Sesan II’s 2008 impact assessment, it will displace about 5,000 villagers, flood 30,000 hectares—a third of it farmland—and block fish migration routes on the Sesan river, impacting the livelihoods of 30,000 minority villagers living upstream, and affecting water quality downstream.
But villager representative Bay Thang Ngot, from Stung Treng’s Talat commune, said affected communities had been kept in the dark about resettlement plans and compensation measures. “The company needs to come and discuss with villagers before they start building,” Mr Ngot said. “If the company does not find a proper solution for us, we will shout and ask for help from relevant government institutions.”
Tep Bunnarith, director of the Culture and Environment Preservation Association based in Stung Treng City, said villagers in the planned reservoir area were worried about their future. “Now they don’t start cultivating their crops, because it’s unclear when and where they will be relocated,” he said. “We don’t see any concrete plan how to address these [compensation] issues and how much budget there is for these measures.”
San Nou, chief of Sesan district councilors, said villagers need not worry, as they would receive proper compensation and “real houses, hospitals, schools and roads” at the relocation site.
Ratanakkiri governor Pao Ham Phan admitted upstream villages in his province would feel “small-scale” impact from the dam, but said he supported it. “As long as we have electricity, we can grow,” he said.