As the Lower Sesan II hydropower dam in Stung Treng province nears completion, officials have said that some 100 affected villagers have refused to accept relocation and compensation.
Construction of the 400-megawatt dam, costing about $800 million, got underway in 2012 and has led to the displacement of thousands of villagers.
During a forum organized by the NGO Forum and attended by officials from the Ministry of Mines and Energy and affected villages, Pan Narith, a representative of the company building the dam, a joint-venture between Cambodia’s Royal Group and China’s Hydrolancang International, said the firm hoped to turn on the first turbine in November.
By 2018, he added, all eight turbines would be switched on.
The Cambodian government will receive an annual tax on the project, which will produce power for Phnom Penh and other provinces.
Of the 846 families affected by the project, 126 have yet to accept compensation, according to the ministry of mines.
Some villagers in Srekor, a Sesan district tract where opposition to the dam has remained consistently high, believe they will not be affected by the rising river.
Nat Suota, 62, called on the officials to pity her. “I am old. What can I do? I don’t want to go,” she said.
Fut Kheun, 32, said the villagers who were holding out wanted to “see the area submerge with their own eyes” before they would believe their village would be lost.
A ministry spokesman said the government had tried and failed to reach a compromise with the villagers.
“There will be a flood. How can they stay, what will they do? The government will not let them die. We have to help them,” he said.
Some villagers maintain the roughly $6,000 in compensation is inadequate.
The government says the dam will reduce the country’s reliance on imported electricity from neighboring countries.