Ratanakkiri Hydropower Dams Deemed Economically Viable

Two massive hydropower dams planned for the Mekong’s tributaries in Ratanakkiri province have been deemed economically viable by two feasibility studies conducted by a pair of giant Chinese conglomerates, a provincial industry, mines and energy official said Wednesday.

The Srepok 3 dam, located in Lumphat district, will generate more than 100 MW, while the Lower Sesan 3 dam, located in both Veun Sai and Andong Meas districts, will have a capacity of about 370 MW, said Hem Vanthorn, provincial director of the department of industry, mines and energy.

“The feasibility studies for the two dams have recently been finished which means that the proposed power plants are worthy in terms of economic value and job opportunities,” Mr. Vanthorn said.

A geographic survey and an environmental impact assessment (EIA) are now “under progress,” Mr. Vanthorn said, adding that both steps would need to be completed before the government approved the dams.

According to a Ministry for Industry, Mines and Energy document dated October last year, China’s Huadian Hong Kong Co. Ltd. has the contract to build the Srepok 3 dam, and Sinohydro Group is responsible for the Lower Sesan 3 dam.

Despite the feasibility studies having been completed, local authorities said Wednesday they have not received any clear information regarding the dams. Veun Sai district governor Chum Ngil said he had not been consulted about the dam’s feasibility despite a huge area being carved out of his district for a reservoir.

“We have little information about the dam,” he said. “Overall, whatever we do will always have both negative and positive impacts.”

Meach Mean, coordinator for the 3S Rivers Protection Network, an NGO advocating for villagers affected by the region’s planned dams, said the social and environmental impacts for the Srepok 3 and Sesan 3 dams would be huge. For example, about 40 villages will be affected by the Sesan 3, he said.

“The recommendations from the [initial] feasibility studies will inform the EIA,” Mr. Mean said. “It needs everyone, all stakeholders, to understand it and give comments on it.”

So far, plans over the 400-MW Low­er Sesan 2 dam in Stung Treng province, which is set to displace 5,000 villagers, have not been released and villagers are still unaware of their compensation schemes.

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