Investors in a hydropower dam on Cambodia’s Se San river and the provincial authorities of Stung Treng province have announced compensation and resettlement plans for local residents affected by the project.
Located in the Se San district, the Lower Se San II hydropower project, a joint venture between EVN International Joint-Stock Company (EVNI), a subsidiary of Electricity of Viet Nam (EVN), and Cambodia's Royal Group, will have a total capacity of 400 megawatts. Construction is expected to begin later this year or early in 2012.
Report: Dam project announces resettlement plan [Vietnam News, 6 June 2011]
According to Royal Group Chairman Kith Meng, this project will accelerate the economic development of Cambodia by ensuring a reliable and affordable electricity supply.
“Development will have some effects on natural resources, but electricity is the most important resource for the country,” said Prach Sun, secretary of state for the Ministry of Environment, at an NGO-led workshop with community representatives last Tuesday.
Danh Serey, deputy director of the Environment Impact Assessment department at the Ministry of Environment, echoed the need for an increase in local energy supplies. “Cambodia needs electricity, and hydropower is much better than other sources,” he said.
Report & Analysis: Delay on Sesan river hydrodam unlikely: officials [VOA Cambodia, 2 June 2011]
However, indigenous community representatives have expressed concern about the social impact of the project, as an estimated 1,300 families would be displaced by the dam.
Environmental damage is also a concern. The Rivers Coalition in Cambodia reported in 2009 that at least 38,000 people in 90 villages could lose fishing resources as a result of the project. “The company did not come to do any studies on the dam’s impact,” said Phat Sunith, chief of Kampun commune in the Se San district.
Full Report: Proposed Lower Sesan 2 Dam, Cambodia fails to uphold best practices [Rivers Coalition in Cambodia, 20 August 2009]
Furthermore, Ian Baird, fisheries expert and consultant for conservation group International Rivers, has estimated that only about 1 per cent of the dam’s capacity will be used locally, with the rest to be sold to Vietnam.
He claimed that the Stung Treng province can likely be powered off only 1 megawatt of energy, and that Cambodia lacks the national electrical grid needed to make use of the remaining energy. “It’s obvious the power is not for Cambodia because there is too much and there is no way to distribute it,” he said.
Report & Analysis: Electricity for Vietnam [Phnom Penh Post, 1 June 2011]
Cambodia is not alone in focusing on hydropower, a well-established source of renewable energy. South Korea’s Hyundai Corp and Indonesia’s PP have won a contract to build an 88-megawatt hydropower plant in Sumatra, and a separate hydropower project in West Java, Indonesia, recently received a US$640 million loan from the World Bank. Vietnam, Thailand, Laos and China are also in the race to build dams on the Mekong River.
Report: World Bank supports Indonesia [KHL Group, 31 May 2011]