IMPLEMENTATION of the Lower Sesan 2 (LS2) hydropower project in northeast Cambodia is underway despite civil society organisations and local residents expressing concerns over possible serious impacts on the environment and natural resources.
Cambodia’s Lower Sesan 2 (LS2) hydropower project brings about concerns to the locals, either those refusing to move or those accepting the resettlement deals. According to the project’s environmental impact assessment report, 4,785 people from seven villages must relocate from four communes in the reservoir area. It is estimated that 78,000 people upstream would lose access to migratory fish, and 22,000 people immediately downstream would be negatively affected by changes in river hydrology, water quality and fish numbers.
Thousands of workers, mostly Chinese, are hustling working on the Lower Sesan 2 (LS2) dam site in Northeast Cambodia, and nearly 40% of their work is complete. The US$816 million project was approved by Cambodia’s Council of Ministers in 2012. However, in November 2014, the dam construction was stopped due to environmental controversy and opposition from communities and some NGOs, but has been re-started since March 2015. And, as construction has resumed, the communities concerns have been reprised and the trouble has restarted.
With an increasing need for energy, the Royal Cambodian Government has spent nearly a billion US dollars on a hydroelectric dam that it claimed was necessary for industry. However, the real social and economic cost of the dam, which will flood an area equivalent to a small province and submerge thousands of families’ houses, might far exceed its construction cost as it might deprive millions of Cambodians of their most important food staple.
Hydropower development is racing across Southeast Asia’s Mekong region, and Internews’ Earth Journalism Network (EJN) is helping journalists investigate the costs and benefits for the environment and communities. As part of the USAID-sponsored Mekong Partnership for the Environment (MPE) program, EJN supported 15 journalists to meet researchers, affected communities, Cambodian government officials and local NGOs in a workshop last week, “Understanding Energy: The Benefits and Costs of Hydropower”, focusing on hydropower dams in Cambodia.
As work moves ahead on the controversial Lower Sesan 2 dam in Stung Treng province, the Ministry of Mines and Energy met Tuesday with representatives of more than 250 families still refusing to make way for the dam’s reservoir.
Demonstrating that land disputes can be defused through negotiations, patience, and money – a four-year-old land fight was settled here yesterday when 13 squatter families agreed to accept payments and leave the land they had occupied.
Yesterday, the Prime Minister of Cambodia has informed Mr. Tan Sri Lim Kok Thay, the CEO of Malaysian company “Genting Group”, that economic land concessions under control of private companies will be returned back to the state if those companies do not implement or follow the Master Plan of development.
A public consultation organized by the Mekong River Commission was held in Pakse, Laos, last week, where opponents continued to call for Laos to reconsider a controversial dam project.
When the Lao national assembly last week approved a potentially destructive dam project just 2 kilometers from the border with Cambodia, the surprise announcement was yet another blow to the regional framework designed to protect the Mekong River.