By Thai PBS
Stung Treng, Cambodia, June 1, 2016
The Sesan II hydro-electric dam is the first which is being built on the Sesan river. It is located about 25 kilometres from the meeting point between the mighty Mekong river and one of its tributaries, the Sesan river. The dam is expected to generate 400 megawatts of electricity for domestic consumption to accommodate economic development of Cambodia.
But there is a price to be paid for the sake of economic development. Villages located in the Samse river basin covering an area of 335 square kilometers will have to be evacuated as the area will turn into a huge reservoir. Forest in the area is also being cleared.
Thai PBS news team recently paid a visit to Srekor village or Srekor commune, a rural community of about 500 households. The residents are Cambodians of Laotian descent 70 percent of them are rice farmers.
The community has no access to electricity but several houses are equipped with solar cell panels to generate electricity. Other houses are equipped with small generators.
The Thai PBS reporters managed to talk to some of the villagers about how they feel about the Sesan II dam and their grim prospect of being evacuated from their homes for many decades to a new settlement.
The new settlement is about 7 kilometres from Srekor village and about three kilometers from the dam site. The Cambodian government has promised each evacuated household a 100 square wah land plot to build a new house plus five hectares of land for farming or 6,000 US dollars for house construction.
But not all the residents are happy with the government’s generous offer and the prospect of moving to the new settlement.
60-year old Mrs Saron Sakom told Thai PBS that she is happy with life at the village and don’t want to be evacuated to elsewhere.
But one of the main reasons that discourages many villagers from moving out is the poor quality of land and water scarcity in the new settlement which are completely different from Srekor village which is endowed with good land and easy access to water from Sesan river.
“The government has promised to find water for us but I don’t know where the government will get the water from,” said Mrs Saron through an interpreter.
Another villager, Uncle Chan, said the 6,000 US dollars offered by the government for house construction were not enough. He claimed that at least 20,000-30,000 US dollars would be required to build a house these days.
Uncle Chan said further that it is now impossible for villagers to obtain lumber from the forest to build a wooden house. He admitted that he didn’t want the government’s money and he didn’t want to move out from his house where he has been living for almost 60 years.
The village head Mr Siak Mekhong said he would try to talk to Stung Treng provincial chief for more money for house construction.
Also, many villagers have wanted to have the right to choose the land plots for house construction and farmland of their liking instead of lot drawing as dictated by the authorities.
This story was produced in collaboration with The Mekong Eye and Mekong Matters Journalism Network, with full editorial control to the journalist and their outlet.