Northeast Villagers Meet To Air Grievances About Vietnamese Dams

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Article from The Cambodia Daily

The Sesan River in Ratanakkiri province has flooded and receded for several
years due to upstream dams in Vietnam, and now the northeast’s Srepok River
is also showing the effects of three new dams, locals reported on Friday.

Villagers from Mondolkiri, Ratanakkiri, and Stung Treng provinces living
along the Srepok gathered in Phnom Penh for a workshop to discuss the impact
of dams and voice complaints over the resulting changes to their river and

The 30 villagers met with a representative of Electricity of Vietnam at the
workshop and asked that the dam builders guarantee their safety and
compensate them for past, current and future destruction of their homes and

“We have been forced to move from our village and have abandoned our
farmland, as hectares of our crops were destroyed” Khim Bun Han, 53, said.

“Our children’s health is poorer and poorer from day to day because the
river is being polluted,” he added.

Villagers said that more than 60 hectares in Ratanakkiri province, Lumphat
and Kon Mom districts alone were destroyed by flood, and hundreds of
villagers have abandoned their homes.

Luong Van Dai, a representative of Electricity of Vietnam, said that to
reduce the flooding a new dams with a large reservoir called Srepok 4 is
planned, but would not be built until sometime after 2010.

Until then, four dams are under construction: 280 megawatt Buon Koup, 86 MW
Ban Tou Srah, 16 MW Dray Linh New and 220 MW Srepok 3, he said.

Luong Van Dai declined to speak to a reporter.

The EVN released an Environmental Impact Assessment at the meeting, which
acknowledges the unique biodiversity of the Cambodian provinces potentially
affected by their dams.

The EIA also recognizes that changes in water flow on the Srepok will have
large impacts on their livelihoods of locals, who get 90 percent of their
protein from the river’s fish.  An estimated 11,000 people live along the
banks of the Srepok river in Cambodia.

The report recommends a list of mitigation measures, from protesting against
oil and chemical spills during dam construction to restocking if fish are
killed off.

The EIA also recommends building wells and latrines for effected villagers,
and giving economic support-but not in the form of cash payments.

Cambodia’s Environment Minister Mok Mareth told the conference that there
is no way to stop the building of the dams in Vietnam, or to stop
development, but ways could be found to reduce the impacts on locals.
(Additional reporting by Erik Wasson)