Irregular, powerful flooding, the loss of resources and
forced relocation were all consequences of hydroelectric dam projects,
villagers and environment experts said this week.
In a search for power for a populace that lives mostly off
the grid, Cambodia is
constructing at least five dams in three provinces, but villagers living along
the Se San river, in the northeast of the country, said a dam built in Vietnam in 1991
should serve as a caution.
“The village became a victim because of a dam in Vietnam,” said
Klan Ty, a Jarai minority from Andong Meas district, Ratanakkiri province, who
spoke at a two-day forum on hydropower that ended Wednesday. “The Se San river
became dirtier, killing the fish and the natural resources in the river. There
is a flood two or three times a year. The old people, the children, the animals
died because of the power of the floodwater.”
In 2007, all the residents of one village in Andong Meas’
Talao commune were forced to move when their houses fell from a collapsed bank
into the river, Klan Ty said.
Another villager, Phay Ton Youk, from Talat commune, in
Steng Treng province’s Se San district, said the Se San dam in Vietnam had
caused a drastic reduction of the fish in the river, forcing people to move to
an area where they could farm instead. But even that has been difficult, he
said, because the rice fields are hurt by irregular flooding.
Koh Kong resident Sim Buntheoun said Wednesday villagers
worried they would be evicted if dams across the Tatai and Chay Areng rivers
are built. They’re asking for compensation from the construction company, which,
like many developers of hydropower projects here, is from China.
Chhith Samath, director of the NGO Forum, which sponsored
the dam forum, said the dam in Vietnam
and those under construction are putting heavy pressure on the environment,
economics and the living conditions of people.
Hem Kolaboth, secretary of state for the Ministry of
Environment, acknowledged the ill effects hydropower dams can have, claiming
that dams can have a worse effect on the environment than they benefit the
people, if the developers doesn’t strictly consider the needs of the people.