By Kang Sothear
Stung Treng, Cambodia, March 9, 2016
Another 73 families in Stung Treng province have accepted the government’s offer of new land in exchange for the farms they will lose to the Lower Sesan II hydropower dam currently under construction, the second group to take the deal.
Seventy families accepted the land swap in May to make way for the 400-megawatt dam being built in a joint venture between the Royal Group and China’s Hydrolancang International Energy across the Sesan and Srepok rivers, both tributaries of the Mekong.
Voeun Sambath, the chief of Sesan district’s Kbal Romeas commune, said the 73 new families picked plots at the relocation site, about 50 km from where they live now but in the same commune, in a blind draw on Friday. He said 46 of them also chose between a wooden or brick house, to be built at the new site for them, or cash in hand to build a house themselves, though he could not remember the amount of money on offer.
“The situation at the new location is good, especially because a water supply is being set up so the people will be able to use the water to live and to farm,” he said.
Mr. Sambath said the families would have to move by April and that another 33 families in the commune had yet to accept the compensation on offer, blaming the influence of unnamed NGOs for their reluctance.
“The rest of the people have not agreed to move to the new location yet because NGOs have convinced them to not support the project and persuaded them to protest, make demands and push to cancel the project,” he said.
The commune chief said the government and the companies building the dam would continue to try to convince the holdouts to take the compensation on offer.
Meach Mean, an adviser to the 3S Rivers Protection Network, a local NGO, said the government might be pressuring the families into taking less compensation than they deserved.
“We don’t fully accept it because the value of the compensation is not being compared to the market [value of the land], while the company just works with the government to create the policy without consulting or negotiating with the community,” he said.
Image: Cranes loom over a construction site in the sprawling reservoir of the Lower Sesan 2 dam in Stung Treng province last year. (Mekong Matters Journalism Network)