VN Dam Not Affecting Water Quality: Minister

A hydropower plant in Vietnam has not affected water quality in the Se­san River, which villag­ers in Ra­tanakkiri province have blamed for in­testinal and skin infections, Foreign Minister Hor Nam­hong wrote in an letter to Sam Rain­sy Party lawmaker Son Chhay on Fri­­day.

“The International Mekong Com­mission cooperated with the Na­tion­al Mekong Committees of Cambo­dia and Vietnam to observe and test water samples in the dry and rainy seasons for one year, showing that there is no remarkable change of water quality,” he wrote.

Both Hor Namhong, in his letter, and an attached report by the Cam­bo­dia National Mekong Committee ack­nowledge that many problems are caused by wildly fluctuating wa­ter levels in the river.

“We recognize that the water lev­el changes irregularly every day by one to one-point-five meters, causing danger to human lives and animals and destroying Cambo­di­ans’ crops, es­pecially in Stung Treng and Ratanakkiri provinces,” Hor Nam­hong wrote.

Son Chhay, who is requesting an in­dependent investigation and a visit to Vietnam’s 720-megawatt Yali Falls Dam in his new position as Chair­man of the National Assem­bly’s For­eign Affairs Committee, said tests on the river water were thus far in­conclusive.

The Cambodia National Me­kong Committee report attached to Hor Namhong’s letter states that the committee lacks the proper funds and scientific data to make any conclusions.

Kim Sangha, coordinator of the NGO Sesan River Protection Net­work, said the water quality could be fine one day and turbid the next, and that he suspected the sam­ples were taken only on clean wa­ter days. He also said he sup­port­ed calls for an inspection across the border in Vietnam.

“If we could take samples of the water stored at the Yali Dam, we could reveal how bad it is,” he said.

Long Saravuth, Deputy Director of the Ministry of Water Resources’ hydrology department, said that a yearlong study with monthly water samples had determined that water from the river was safe.

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