By Pech Sotheary
Phnom Penh, Cambodia, September 27, 2016
Youth groups and environmental activists have requested the government release the latest documents concerning the proposed Sambo hydroelectric dam in Kratie province, amid lingering concerns of the possible environmental damage the dam may cause.
The dam, if constructed, will be the largest in the country and will likely affect the critically endangered Mekong River dolphin as well as lead to the eviction of some 2,000 local residents, said Hun Vannak, leader of Social and Environmental Protection Youth (SEPY).
“If the government’s response to the data is to approve the project, we will request for the clear impact study. But now, we just want to know whether this project will be built because it will affect many citizens, as well as being a Kampi [Mekong River dolphin] site.”
Mr. Vannak said the dam, proposed by China-based Central Southern China, is set to impact about 70,000 hectares of Sambo district and will have major repercussions on animals and humans alike. The initial proposal for the dam predicted it could generate up to 2,600 megawatts of electricity, he said, but the feared need to displace people in the area means that the ministries should publish the data so communities can plan accordingly.
In the petition, the group asks the government to give specific details on the project, including when it will start construction, and the impact it may have on local communities. Even local authorities in a nearby area want to know the potential impact of the damn.
Mr. Vannak said Friday’s petition to the Ministry of Mines and Energy and the Ministry of Environment – signed by SEPY, the Khmer Student Intelligent League Association and environmental NGO Mother Nature – needed to be fixed due to mistakes and would be resubmitted today.
Chum Huot, an outspoken environmental activist, yesterday called on both ministries to suspend plans for the dam.
“We are concerned because there are dams constructed along the Mekong River, such as Laos is constructing the Don Sahong Dam on the Mekong River and now the government plans to build the Sambo Hydro Dam, so the people living along the Mekong will face serious problems both in their the living situations and through the loss of fish.”
A spokesperson for the Ministry of Mines and Energy, Meng Saktheara, confirmed that they had received the initial petition.
“Overall, the petition in which the group of students requested to the ministry to provide the detailed plan project is the right request, because the environmental study and planning are public information which we can’t hide and need to display to explain to youth about the project.”