By Long Sambo
Kratie Province, Cambodia, September 21, 2016
Two commune chiefs and tourist boat operators in Kratie province have expressed their dissatisfaction over the construction of Don Sahong Dam, saying people’s living conditions will be getting worse while biodiversity – including rare fish species and dolphins in the lower Mekong River – are facing a threat of becoming extinct in the future if the Lao dam proceeds with its construction.
The tourist boat operators and the two commune chiefs in Sambo district voiced their concerns to some 30 Cambodian journalists who were on a field visit, as part of a three-day training workshop on reporting on environmental impact and EIA organized by the Cambodia Institute for Media Studies and supported by the USAID-funded Mekong Partnership for the Environment during July 14-16, 2016.
Mr. Chum Savorn, Chief of Sambo District, said he was worried about the decline of the fishery and since 2002 rare fish species like dolphins have been facing a threat of becoming extinct due to the Don Sahong Dam. The commune chief continued that millions of people along the Mekong River would lose their livelihoods and daily income if the dam continued to be built.
He said the people in his commune made their living by fishing both legally and illegally apart from doing their rice farming though the local authority had tried to stop illegal activities due to the few and poorly trained officers.
Mr. Savorn said during the last two years the people’s living conditions had also been affected by climate change, draught, and farmers’ spending a bigger investment on crops with less profits and cheaper price. After the Don Sahong dam started its construction in 2014, he said all fish species, especially dolphins in the Kampi, Peak Vek and Koh Pdao Coservation Areas, had migrated from Kampi up and down to the Lao border in Steung Treng province.
Mr. Ouk Savy, Koh Knhae Commune Chief, said his commune stretched along the Mekong River over an area of 25 square kilometers and the people in the commune made their living by farming and collecting palm juice in addition to fishing. After draught, he said people had sold their cattle and bought mechanic ploughs but they had to spend a lot on fuel while making a small profit.
With regards to fishery, Mr. Savy said that in the past the river within Koh Knhae commune had an abundance of fish, including the Mekong dolphins. However, he said things had changed after the construction of the dam.
The two commune chiefs said they were worried that fish species in the Mekong River, especially dolphins, would disappear when the Don Sahong Dam closed its gates after the construction is completed.
Mr. Sor Sokchea, Deputy Head of the Tourist Boat Operators Association based at Kampi, Kratie province, said the Mekong dolphins had helped generate income for the local people but they would also lose their livelihoods after the construction of the dam.
While indicating that the tourist boat operators and other vendors would return to rice farming, Mr. Sokchea said he would like to appeal to the government to help stop the construction of the Don Sahong Dam, which is only one kilometer from the Mekong dophin sanctuary in Cambodia.
The 260-megawatt Don Sahong Dam is located in Champa Sak province in Laos, began its construction in 2014.
This story was produced in collaboration with The Mekong Eye and Mekong Matters Journalism Network through a field workshop for journalists. The journalist and their outlet retain full editorial and copyright control. Translation by The Mekong Eye, Read the original on Apsara TV.
Lead photo: Sunset on Mekong River, Photo: Pixabay