Stung Treng Families Accept New Land to Leave Dam Site

Seventy families in Stung Treng province on Saturday officially accepted the government’s offer of new land in compensation for the farms they will lose to the under-construction Lower Sesan 2 hydropower dam, becoming the first group to agree to the deal.

At least 16 of the roughly 800 families to be evicted to make way for the 400-megawatt dam have already accepted cash payouts of up to $20,000. But deputy provincial governor Duong Pov said Sunday that the 70 families from Sresranouk and Chrab villages were the first to take up the offer of land at a relocation site—5 hectares each and a 20-by-50-meter plot for a house.

He said the families also had a choice of receiving either $6,000 to construct a new house on the site or having a new house built for them by the Chinese company that is constructing the dam, Hydrolancang International Energy. Whichever option they take, the families will also be compensated for everything they are forced to leave behind, and will relocate starting next month.

“They are being compensated for their fruit trees, houses, pigsties, cow barns and the rest of their property,” Mr. Pov said.

With 28 percent of the dam already built, he said, the families had no choice but to move.

“The hydro dam has to go forward,” he said. “It cannot stop.”

Chea Kheng, a villager from Sresranouk, said his family was among the 70 to officially take up the relocation offer. He said those who had accepted the offer did not want to move but felt they had no choice.

“The villagers agreed to leave because the government is building the dam,” he said. “We’re concerned about flooding. There’s no choice.”

The 5 hectares he is accepting for the move will be much more than the 1.5 hectares he has now. But Mr. Kheng has not seen the new site and said he was worried that it might not be as fertile.

Kim Doeung, a community representative from Kbal Romeas village, another village set to be affected by the dam, said a little less than half of the 130 families in his village would take the government’s offer of cash and new land—if the government agreed to give them more money. He would not say exactly how much they want.

As for the rest, Mr. Doeung said, “They are worried about losing their traditional practices, their rotational farming, the graves of their ancestors…. They dare to die in the flood.”

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