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Parliament Approves Money for Two Dams

Cambodian lawmakers on Tuesday passed draft legislation that would ensure financing for two Chinese hydroelectric companies, for projects costing more than $1.3 billion and expected to provide power to a fifth of the country.

The projects, from China National Machinery and the Michel Corporation, are part of ongoing efforts by the government to harness the energy of Cambodian waterways, from the Mekong to the Cardamom Mountains, totaling six projects, five Chinese and one from Vietnam,so far.

"The passage [of the laws] will allow these two companies to start their work immediately," said Suy Sem, minister of Industry, Mines and Energy, at the end of a National Assembly session Tuesday.

China National Machinery will invest in a dam on the Ta Tai river in the Cardamom Mountains of Koh Kong province, spending $540 million on a 37-year project, and Michel will spend $496 million over 30 years for a dam in Roeussey Chrum Krom, also in the Cardamoms.

"The investment is too long, and the selling price [of electricity to Electricite du Cambodge] is too expensive, compared to other countries," Yim Sovann, an opposition lawmaker for the Sam Rainsy Party, said during the National Assembly session.

Other critics warn the dams could severely impact the environment inan area of rare and abundant wildlife.

"This investment will destory them," said Gny San, deputy director ofthe NGO Forum of Cambodia, which has conducted a survey on the impactof hydroelectric power development in the country.