Officials Say Environmental Impact Study on Dam OK’d

Officials said yesterday the government had approved the environmental impact assessment of the proposed 400-mega­watt Low­er Sesan 2 Dam in Stung Treng province’s Sesan district, though the consultant who carried out the study stated his company was still waiting for the government’s final approval.

Pich Dun, secretary-general of the Cambodia National Mekong River Committee, said he knew con­­­­­­­­­­­cerned ministries had ap­proved the review of the $816 million hydropower project on the Sesan River proposed by Ele­ctricite du Vietnam, Vietnam’s state-owned energy giant.

“So far, I know that the EIA was already approved by the stakeholders at the last meeting at the Ministry of Environment,” late last year, Mr Dun said, add­ing, “There will be no more im­pact studies, the consultancy phase has ended.”

Nao Thuok, Director General of the Ministry of Agriculture’s Fisheries Administration, confirmed his administration, along with other involved ministries, had approved the EIA.

“The government has the techniques to avoid the impact on fi­sh­eries. This plan will have a small impact on the fish,” he said, before declining further comment.

Civil society groups have in the past criticized the project for the insufficient coverage of environmental and social impact studies, the lack of consultation with af­fected communities and inadequate compensation for displa­ced families.

Meach Mean, a coordinator with 3S-River Net­work, an organization that works on Ratanakkiri province rivers, said 74 villages in Ratanakkiri province that feared the potential impact of the dam would send a letter to Prime Minister Hun Sen on Wed­ne­s­day, asking him to intervene and help find an alternative to the proposed hydropower project or a revision of the environmental study.

“They just mention to the government to find an alternative, or to build a small dam,” he said, add­­­­­­­­­­ing, “If the dam is built they would like a new EIA.”

Taing Sophanara from Key Con­sultants Cambodia, which pre­­­­­­­­p­ared the assessment, said his firm was still waiting on the final decision of the government.

“Last month we submitted the final revised version…. We are waiting. We expect the final decision before the end of the year,” Mr Sophanara said, adding, “Af­ter approval, the company would like to start.”

NGO Forum Director Chhith Sam Ath said he doubted that Sesan and Mekong river fisheries would be safe from the dam’s impact and urged the government to carefully consider its decision before its approval of the project.

“We, civil society, don’t want to see the development go at the cost of the Cambodian people,” he said.

“Experience from other countries shows there is no way to a­void an impact on fisheries [when building a dam].”


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