Villagers Demand Dam Open Its Sluice Gate

More than 100 villagers in Battambang province’s Sangke district whose rice crops are threatened by drought protested twice last week, calling on local authorities to force the Chinese company building an irrigation dam in the area to open the sluice gate to flood the parched farmlands, villagers and officials said.

With the rainy season just beginning, about 1,000 hectares of rice crop in Kompong Prieng and Raing Kesei communes have already been damaged by drought.

Villagers demonstrated on July 6 and again on Thursday to demand the company open the floodgates for the first time to save the rice fields, said Nget Soeu, chief of Kompong Prieng commune.

“The company refused to open the dam by claiming the dam project is not completely finished, but they opened it briefly on Saturday after they were ordered to by provincial Governor Chan Sophal,” he said.

When operational, the dam, which is being built by China’s Guangdong Foreign Construction Company, will irrigate up to 50,000 hectares of surrounding farmland.

Mr. Soeu said if substantial rains do not arrive in the next 10 days, the irrigation dam gate must be opened again or 750 hectares of rice crop will be destroyed.

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