Northeast Villagers Meet to Air Grievances About Vietnamese Dams

The Sesan River in Ratanakkiri province has flooded and receded for several years due to upstream dams in Vietnam, and now the northeast’s Srepok River is also showing the effects of three new dams, locals reported on Jan 12.

Villagers from Mondolkiri, Rata­na­kkiri and Stung Treng provinces living along the Srepok gathered in Phnom Penh for a workshop to discuss the impact of dams and voice complaints over the resulting changes to their river and lives.

The 30 villagers met with a representative of Electricity of Viet­nam at the workshop and asked that the dam builders guarantee their safety and compensate them for past, current and future destruction of their homes and crops.

“We have been forced to move out from our village and have abandoned our farmland, as hectares of our crops were destroyed” Khim Bun Han, 53, said.

“Our children’s health is poorer and poorer from day to day be­cause the river is being polluted,” he added.

Villagers said that more than 60 hec­tares in Ratanakkiri province’s Lumphat and Kon Mom districts alone were destroyed by flood, and hundreds of villagers have abandoned their homes.

Luong Van Dai, a representative of Electricity of Vietnam, said that to reduce the flooding a new dam with a large reservoir called Srepok 4 is planned, but would not be built until sometime after 2010.

Until then, four dams are under construction: 280 megawatt Buon Koup, 86 MW Ban Tou Srah, 16 MW Dray Linh New and 220 MW Srepok 3, he said.

Luong Van Dai declined to speak to a reporter.

The EVN released an Environ­mental Impact Assessment at the meeting, which acknowledges the unique biodiversity of the Cam­bodian provinces potentially affected by their dams.

The EIA also recognizes that changes in water flow on the Sre­pok will have large impacts on the livelihoods of locals, who get 90 percent of their protein from the river’s fish.

An estimated 11,000 people live along the banks of the Srepok river in Cambodia.

The report recommends a list of mitigation measures, from protecting against oil and chemical spills during dam construction to re­stocking if fish are killed off.

The EIA also recommends build­ing wells and latrines for effected villages, and giving economic support—but not in the form of cash payments.

Cambodia’s Environment Min­ister Mok Mareth told the conference that there is no way to stop the building of the dams in Viet­nam, or to stop development, but ways could be found to reduce the impacts on locals. (Additional reporting by Erik Wasson)


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