Officials in Kampot province are working to quell rumors that flooding there was intentionally caused by the opening of a hydropower dam upstream.
Photos of the flooding, in three Kampot communes, alongside photos of water flowing from the dam have been shared by many people on Facebook and other social media, but Kampot Governor Khoy Khun told VOA Khmer the Komchay Dam releases are normal under heavy rains.
“Even developed countries do so,” he said. “If it fully fills the dam, we have to open all the gates to let the water flow. If there is less water, we open fewer.”
The dam, which has been in operation since 2011, is run by the Chinese company Sinohydro. It has been criticized by environmental groups for its impact on the local ecosystem and on people living near it.
Tek Vannara, executive director of the NGO Forum, said he believes the flooding in Kampot has to do with poor dam management at Komchay. “Have they estimated, after construction, in case of heavy rain, whether they would have different ways to spill the water from the reservoir, rather than through the main gate only?”
Dams should prevent flooding and control water, he said. Komchay Dam must now be reconsidered, he said. “We must let the company revise this impact to the people that live below the dam, and be responsible for what the company should do to contribute to its effect on people.”
The current flooding is also a moment to rethink other water projects and their impact, and a reminder to consider people living below such dams, and to warn them if the gates are going to be opened, he said.