Returning Sesan Families Warned of Greater Floods From Dam

Families in Stung Treng province that returned to a village near the Lower Sesan II dam after floodwaters temporarily receded are being warned they will be forced again to flee when a far worse deluge comes as all of the new dam’s gates are shut.

Residents of Srekor village fled to higher ground over the weekend, nearly two weeks after testing of the 400-megawatt dam began with the gradual closing of eight of its 10 flood gates.

Srekor and nearby Kbal Romeas village lie within what will turn into the dam’s 36,000-hectare reservoir. The majority of the area’s 5,000 residents reluctantly agreed to move to nearby resettlement sites, but about 120 families in the two villages have refused to leave.

On Monday, 35 families returned to Srekor, said Sarun Sokhom, one of those who fled. “The water has receded from the village and all the people have returned to their homes,” Ms. Sokhom said on Tuesday.

The respite could be brief, perhaps less than a month. Representatives of the companies constructing the dam informed villagers that the waters had subsided as the dam gates were opened to transport materials from the dam construction site, Ms. Sokhom said.

She said 35 residents became angry after provincial authorities refused to allow them to join a meeting on Monday, in which they planned to lobby officials to push for a better solution for them.

Men Kong, spokesman for the provincial government hall, confirmed that a meeting took place between “relevant institutions” and the NGO Forum, but that 10 community representatives had refused to attend.

“We allowed 10 representatives to attend the meeting on Tuesday, but they refused because they wanted us to let all the people attend the meeting,” Mr. Kong said.

“I wish to state that the meeting was not held for people to protest but for discussing to find solutions for those people,” he said.

Requests to keep the dam gates open were unreasonable as the dam would benefit the entire country, he added.

Um Reth, a representative for the Royal Group, which is constructing the dam together with the China Huaneng Group, said the dam gates would be shuttered in about a month.

“I think that the people cannot stay in Srekor village when we close all the watergates because the area will flood seriously,” he said.

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