NGOs Lobby China, Companies Over Sesan Dam

A group of 15 local and international rights groups Tuesday sent a slew of letters to the Chinese government and companies involved in the Lower Sesan II hydropower dam in Stung Treng province seeking a halt to dam construction due to serious environmental and social impacts already being felt by local communities.

The nine letters follow a meeting in China last week between Prime Minister Hun Sen and the chairman of the Chinese investment partner in the project, Huaneng Group. During the meeting, Mr. Hun Sen urged the company to minimize the environmental impact of the dam and take responsibility for local communities affected by construction.

“As one of the most damaging tributary projects in the Mekong River Basin, the Lower Sesan II Dam’s effects on biodiversity, food security, livelihoods and agriculture will be felt not only in Cambodia, but across the entire Lower Mekong region,” said Ame Trandem, the Southeast Asia Program director for International Rivers, in a statement announcing the letters had been sent.

Meach Mean, coordinator of the 3S Rivers Protection Network, said there is deep concern that widespread illegal logging and unlawful fishing activities are occurring beyond the designated construction zone for the Sesan II. He added that previous letters sent to the Chinese Embassy and the companies involved had gone unanswered.

Mr. Mean said he was pessimistic that Mr. Hun Sen’s statement during his visit to China regarding the environmental and social impact of the dam would have any influence on the hydropower dam project.

“If they are really interested in these issues, they should stop the dam construction and restart studies into its impact,” he said.

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