News / Asia

Work Begins on Controversial Cambodian Dam

Residents of Srekor village plane lengths of wood at their open-air workshop on the banks of the Se San River, Cambodia. (R. Carmichael/VOA)Residents of Srekor village plane lengths of wood at their open-air workshop on the banks of the Se San River, Cambodia. (R. Carmichael/VOA)
x
Residents of Srekor village plane lengths of wood at their open-air workshop on the banks of the Se San River, Cambodia. (R. Carmichael/VOA)
Residents of Srekor village plane lengths of wood at their open-air workshop on the banks of the Se San River, Cambodia. (R. Carmichael/VOA)
Robert Carmichael
As work begins on Cambodia’s biggest dam, those advocating against its construction have warned that the region’s rush for hydropower will have a disastrous effect on millions of people who rely on the Mekong River to survive.

Last month, workers began preparing an area in northeastern Cambodia for a huge hydropower project, the 400-megawatt Lower Se San 2 Dam.

The $800 million dam on the Se San River, a major tributary of the Mekong, will take the Cambodian, Chinese and Vietnamese companies behind it five years to build.

Opponents say the dam’s real cost will be paid by the millions of people who rely on fish for the bulk of their protein intake.

Cambodians eat more freshwater fish than any other nationality, says Eric Baran, the senior research scientist with WorldFish, an independent group that studies food security. “So people have become very reliant on this source of animal protein," he explained. "And, fish is also by far the first source of animal protein.”

Thailand and Vietnam have a flourishing livestock sector - with advanced production of chickens and pigs. But, in Cambodia, fish accounts for 80 percent of the population’s animal protein intake.

Scientists estimated the Lower Se San 2 Dam could reduce the total fish yield of the Mekong Basin by 9.3 percent.

“So it’s 9.3 percent of 2.1 million tons - which is a gigantic amount," said Baran. "In other words, this expected loss represents around 200,000 tons per year, which is much more than the whole marine sector of Australia. And, nine times more than the annual inland fish catch in Germany or the U.S.”

That estimated drop is presented in a study that Baran co-authored, published last year in The Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences.  

Researchers found that of the dozens of tributary dams planned for Laos, Vietnam and Cambodia, the Lower Se San 2 Dam was by far the most destructive for fisheries.

That is because the Se San River is one-third of a network of rivers in northeastern Cambodia that constitute three out of four so-called “highways” that migratory fish use to access their breeding sites.

The Lower Se San 2 Dam will be built a few miles downstream of the confluence of two of those three rivers: the Se San River and the Sre Pok River. Scientists said the dam’s eight-kilometer wall will block migratory fish - which make up 40 percent of all fish in the system - from accessing their breeding grounds.

The study also found that the Lower Se San 2 Dam would reduce by six to eight percent the flow of nutrient-rich sediment, which is vital to fertilizing the small rice fields of hundreds of thousands of subsistence-level people.

And, it warns that a series of mainstream dams planned for Laos and Cambodia would have even worse effects.

“If the 11 mainstream dams are built, it’s expected that up to 75 percent of the sediments will be blocked by dams,” Baran said.

Countries that build dams on the mainstream of the Mekong River must first carry out detailed impact studies to measure how they could affect their neighbors.

But dams built on tributaries - such as the Lower Se San 2 Dam - require no such study.

Ame Trandem is the Southeast Asia Program Director for International Rivers, an independent environmental group.  She said the environmental impact assessment for the Lower Se San 2 Dam is “wholly inadequate.”

“Because it’s a tributary project it has never undergone that same level of consultation. And, so the information that’s been produced by experts hasn’t reached the government in the same kind of channels. I do think, if more information was reaching the government, it would reconsider,” Trandem stated.

VOA tried to speak with Cambodian authorities about the dam’s impact, but was told that the man responsible for hydropower dams - the Minister of Industry, Mines & Energy Suy Sem - was too busy to schedule an interview until after Cambodia’s general election in July. Other ministry staff would not speak and a list of questions sent to the minister was not answered.

Meanwhile, work on the Lower Se San 2 Dam has started and thousands of people who live in the areas that will be submerged by the dam’s vast 300-square-kilometer reservoir have been told they will have to move.

Pa Tou, a 37-year-old rice farmer and resident of Srekor village, says the proposed resettlement site will leave all of the villagers far worse off, Cambodia. (R. Carmichael/VOA)Pa Tou, a 37-year-old rice farmer and resident of Srekor village, says the proposed resettlement site will leave all of the villagers far worse off, Cambodia. (R. Carmichael/VOA)
x
Pa Tou, a 37-year-old rice farmer and resident of Srekor village, says the proposed resettlement site will leave all of the villagers far worse off, Cambodia. (R. Carmichael/VOA)
Pa Tou, a 37-year-old rice farmer and resident of Srekor village, says the proposed resettlement site will leave all of the villagers far worse off, Cambodia. (R. Carmichael/VOA)
One of them is 37-year-old Pa Tou. He said none of the 400 ethnic minority families in Srekor village on the banks of the Se San River wants to leave.
 
Pa Tou said the dam will deprive them of everything - their rice fields, orchards and homes. Currently, they can grow enough rice in a year to feed themselves for the following year and they are able to raise some livestock for food and some for sale.

Pa Tou, who has three daughters, said that will not be possible at the relocation site, which is miles from the river.  He said the land there is poor for farming - most of it is rocky or covered with trees - and there are no health clinics and no schools. He fears they will all be left much worse off.

You May Like

Multimedia Ferguson, Missouri Streets Calm After Days of Violence

Police official says authorities responded to fewer incidents, noting there were no shootings, Molotov cocktails or fires More

Video Cambodian American Hip Hop Artist Sings of Personal Struggles

For Chanthy Sok, rap infused with Cambodian melodies is a way to pay respect to the survivors of the victims of Khmer Rouge genocide More

Study: Our Life with Neanderthals Was No Brief Affair

Scientists discover thousands of years of overlap between modern humans and their shorter, stockier cousins More

This forum has been closed.
Comments
     
There are no comments in this forum. Be first and add one

Featured Videos

Your JavaScript is turned off or you have an old version of Adobe's Flash Player. Get the latest Flash player.
African Media Tries to Educate Public About Ebolai
X
George Putic
August 20, 2014 8:57 PM
While the Ebola epidemic continues to claim lives in West Africa, information technology specialists, together with radio and TV reporters, are battling misinformation and prejudice about the disease - using social media to educate the public about the deadly virus. VOA’s George Putic has more.
Video

Video African Media Tries to Educate Public About Ebola

While the Ebola epidemic continues to claim lives in West Africa, information technology specialists, together with radio and TV reporters, are battling misinformation and prejudice about the disease - using social media to educate the public about the deadly virus. VOA’s George Putic has more.
Video

Video Ferguson Calls for Justice as Anger, Violence Grips Community

Violence, anger and frustration continue to grip the small St. Louis suburb of Ferguson, Missouri. Protests broke out after a white police officer fatally shot an unarmed black teenager on August 9. The case has sparked outrage around the nation and prompted the White House to send U.S. Attorney Eric Holder to the small community of just over 20,000 people. VOA’s Mary Alice Salinas has more from Ferguson.
Video

Video Beheading Of US Journalist Breeds Outrage

U.S. and British authorities have launched an investigation into an Islamic State video showing the beheading of kidnapped American journalist James Foley by a militant with a British accent. The extremist group, which posted the video on the Internet Tuesday, said the murder was revenge for U.S. airstrikes on militant positions in Iraq - and has threatened to execute another American journalist it is holding. Henry Ridgwell has more from London.
Video

Video Family Robots - The Next Big Thing?

Robots that can help us with daily chores like cooking and cleaning are a long way off, but automatons that serve as family companions may be much closer. Researchers in the United States, France, Japan and other countries are racing to build robots that can entertain and perform some simpler tasks for us. VOA’s George Putic reports.
Video

Video In Ukraine, Fear and Distrust Remain Where Fighting has Stopped

As the Ukrainian military reclaims control of eastern cities from pro-Russian separatists, residents are getting a chance to rebuild their lives. VOA's Gabe Joselow reports from the town of Kramatorsk in Donetsk province, where a sense of fear is still in the air, and distrust of the government in Kyiv still runs deep.
Video

Video Five Patients Given Experimental Ebola Drug Said to Be Improving

The World Health Organization has approved the use of experimental treatments for Ebola patients in West Africa. The Ebola outbreak there is unprecedented, the disease deadly. The number of people who have died from Ebola has surpassed 1,200. VOA's Carol Pearson reports on the ethical considerations of allowing experimental drugs to be used.
Video

Video China Targets Overseas Assets of Corrupt Officials

As China presses forward with its anti-graft effort, authorities are targeting corrupt officials who have sent family members and assets overseas. The efforts have stirred up a debate at home on exactly how many officials take that route and how likely it is they will be caught. Rebecca Valli has this report.
Video

Video Leading The Fight Against Islamic State, Kurds Question Iraqi Future

Western countries including the United States have begun arming the Kurdish Peshmerga forces in northern Iraq to aid their battle against extremist Sunni militants from the Islamic State. But there are concerns that a heavily-armed Kurdistan Regional Government, or KRG, might seek to declare independence and cause the break-up of the Iraqi state. As Henry Ridgwell reports from London, the KRG says it will only seek greater autonomy from Baghdad.
Video

Video In Rural Kenya, Pressure Builds Against Female Circumcision

In some Kenyan communities, female genital mutilation remains a rite of passage. But activists are pushing back, with education for girls and with threats of punishment those who perform the circumcision. Mohammed Yusuf looks at the practice in the rural eastern community of Tharaka-Nithi.

AppleAndroid