Villagers Want Compensation for Lower Sesan 2 Dam Construction

A group of eight villagers from Stung Treng and Ratanakkiri provinces facing displacement by the construction of the Lower Sesan 2 dam lodged a petition Thursday with the Chinese Embassy and three ministries demanding that the developer negotiate with them.

“The affected families have never been consulted about the dam construction, even though we are going to lose everything,” said Puth Khoeun, a representative from Sesan district’s Srekor commune, after villagers handed petitions to the ministries of industry, mines and energy, finance, and environment, as well as the Chinese ambassador, asking for a public forum with the developer to discuss project details.

The 400-MW Lower Sesan 2 dam, which is being built by Hydropower Lower Sesan 2, a joint venture of local conglomerate Royal Group and Chinese firm Hydrolancang International Energy Co. Ltd., is expected to displace about 5,000 people living in the  area.

Thursday’s action followed the distribution of two documents detailing compensation and relocation plans, “Mechanism and Procedures of Compensation,” and “Resettlement Policy of Lower Sesan 2 Dam” in Stung Treng, dated January 17 and signed by Minister of Industry, Mines and Energy Suy Sem.

A copy of the document on compensation states that the dam developers had agreed to compensate villagers for their fruit trees—with compensation ranging from $2 to $44 depending on the species of tree. The developer had also agreed to pay compensation for three Buddhist pagodas in the area should they need to be completely demolished.

But villagers who took part in Thursday’s event said they were concerned the planned resettlement site was in an unfertile area and that ancestral burial grounds might be destroyed without compensation.

“The resettlement site is only about 3 kilometers across the Sesan River where the land is very rocky and not fertile for farming,” said Mr. Khoeun.

He said that local villagers were particularly upset that they will not be compensated for burial grounds that will be flooded by the dam.

Tuon Taing, Phluk commune chief, said 16 families have accepted an offer of between $8,000 to $20,000 in compensation for their houses and land to avoid living in a resettlement site.

“Affected families have been offered compensation, I think that’s enough for them, he said.  “The dam’s a good thing that will help develop the community and create more jobs.”

Work on the dam would start soon he added, noting that construction workers’ housing had already been erected and construction machinery sent to the site.

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