A proposed hydroelectric dam in Koh Kong province’s Kirirom National Park would have serious adverse effects on 228 families who live near the proposed site, environmentalists warned Friday.
Prim Channarith, an activist with the Culture and Environment Preservation Association, said villagers are worried they could lose their land and their way of life if the project moves forward. He said almost 500 hectares of land would need to be cleared to build the dam.
“The locals are very worried about the destruction and loss that will happen,” he said.
CETIC International Hydropower Development Co, a Chinese company, has been interested in developing a dam in the park for more than four years but only started work on a feasibility study last month. The study is expected to take a year to complete.
Ministry of Industry, Mines and Energy secretary of state Klaut Vandy said the government has not given the company leave to start construction yet and villager concerns will be examined carefully.
But CEPA director Tep Bunnarith said Friday that hydroelectric plants should not be built in national parks, citing concerns of deforestation, flooding and the pollution of the water. “Kirirom National Park is a place that should be conserved,” he said.
He said the project could affect residents in the villages of Preah Ang Keo and Bak Angrut in Sre Ambel district’s Dang Peng commune, where the park is located.
Moeung Mean, a forestry community representative in Koh Kong, said the villagers need to know what impacts a dam would have on their livelihoods and what type of compensation would be provided if construction went ahead. He said the waterfall where CETIC is looking to build the dam provides food for the villagers.
“We won’t have fish anymore to eat,” he said.
Koh Kong governor Yuth Mouthang said the project won’t help his province but is important for the country.
“This is not for Koh Kong, it is for Phnom Penh,” he said.