Locals in the Dark to Chinese Rail Project

With two Chinese firms due to start work on a 400-km railway, steel mill and port in July, an environmental impact assessment (EIA) has yet to be conducted, and affected provinces are still largely in the dark about the massive infrastructure project.

In a ceremony in Phnom Penh on Monday, Chinese conglomerate Cambodia Iron and Steel Mining Industry Group and China Railway Group Limited signed a deal on the purported $9.6 billion project in the presence of Transport Minister Tram Iv Tek.

The ambitious plan would see a railway built by 2017 from a plant in Preah Vihear province, through Kompong Thom, Kompong Chhnang, Kompong Speu and Koh Kong provinces, to a seaport on Koh Smach Island, off the coast of Koh Kong.

Environment Minister Mok Mareth said in a message yesterday that an EIA on the project was “not yet submitted.”

“Naturally, the company shall fulfill this obligation to get the support from Chinese [government] and [the financers of the project],” he said.

China Railway conducted a feasibility study on the rail project in 2011, but results have not been made public and officials have not given any specifics on the precise path the railway line will take, or how many people will be displaced.

Peou Maly, deputy director of the transportation department within the Ministry of Public Works and Transport, said that he believed the project “will have some impact on some people’s homes because it is more than 400 km long.

“When it impacts on a citizen’s house, they [the companies] will pay compensation” in accordance with the Land Law, he said.

Mam Sambath, chairman of Cambodians for Resource Revenue Transparency, a coalition of NGOs, said he was concerned about the tight timescale on a project that would clearly impact many people and affect the environment.

“It is just seven months to go. In order to manage this project and conduct an assessment well takes a long time. And consultation with the community is very important,” he said.

“It’s a bit short notice.”

Koh Kong provincial governor Bun Leut said he had heard about the development, which includes plans for a 3-km bridge in Kiri Sakor district, but that no discussions had been held on what impact it would have on the people or their environment.

“I heard that there will be a Chinese company developing on the island, but I didn’t get an official document yet,” he said.

Kompong Speu governor Kang Heang and Kompong Thom deputy governor Uch Samon also both said they had heard of the plan but had not been officially notified.

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