Cambodia’s largest hydropower dam under fire for destroying livelihoods

The Lower Sesan 2 dam has flooded large parts of an area in northeastern Cambodia

A massive Chinese-financed dam in Cambodia which was went into operation at the end of 2018 as the so far largest hydropower dam in the country has “washed away the livelihoods” of tens of thousands of villagers while falling short of promised energy production, Human Rights Watch said in a new report released on August 10.

The 137-page report entitled Underwater: Human Rights Impacts of a China Belt and Road Project in Cambodia alleges that the 400-megawatt Lower Sesan 2 dam in northeastern Cambodia has undermined the lives and livelihoods of thousands of indigenous and ethnic minority people.

The dam flooded large areas upstream of the confluence of the Sesan and Srepok Rivers, two tributaries of the Mekong River, the report said, threatening fish stocks and agricultural land crucial to millions living along the Mekong’s flood plains, the report said.

Tens of thousands of villagers living upstream and downstream have suffered steep losses to their incomes, John Sifton, Human Rights Watch’s Asia advocacy director and the report’s author, said, referring to interviews conducted over two years with some 60 people from various communities.

Power production levels fa behind expectations

The Cambodian government had pushed ahead with the project – which involved resettling about 5,000 people – in hopes of producing about one-sixth of Cambodia’s annual electricity needs as promised by Hydrolancang International Energy, the builder and a subsidiary of Chinese state-owned electricity company China Huaneng Group.

But production levels are “likely far lower, amounting to only a third of those levels,” the report said, urging the government to revisit the project’s compensation for the resettlement of people and implement “livelihood-restoration methods.”

Phnom Penh defends resettlements of villagers

However, the Cambodian government is defending the dam, saying it provided “the most positive impacts” and that the resettled villagers had been given new homes, farmland and access to electric power at better locations.

Huaneng Hydrolancang International Energy holds 51 per cent of the stake in the dam operator, while Cambodia’s largest business conglomerate Royal Group owns 39 per cent and Vietnamese EVN International the balance of ten per cent.

Cambodian tycoon’s conglomerate holds 39 per cent of dam operator

Royal Group, owned and controlled by Cambodian tycoon Kith Meng who is close to the country’s Prime Minister Hun Sen, has come repeatedly under fire in the past for land rights violations and environmental issues.

The dam, which cost a reported $780 million to build, is part of China’s Belt and Road initiative, a $1-trillion-dollar infrastructure vision for maritime, rail and road projects across Asia, Africa and Europe.

The initiative, which aims at extending China’s economic influence around the world, has been widely criticised for pushing small developing countries, including Cambodia and Laos, into unmanageable sovereign debt.



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The Lower Sesan 2 dam has flooded large parts of an area in northeastern Cambodia A massive Chinese-financed dam in Cambodia which was went into operation at the end of 2018 as the so far largest hydropower dam in the country has “washed away the livelihoods” of tens of thousands of villagers while falling short of promised energy production, Human Rights Watch said in a new report released on August 10. The 137-page report entitled Underwater: Human Rights Impacts of a China Belt and Road Project in Cambodia alleges that the 400-megawatt Lower Sesan 2 dam in northeastern Cambodia has...

The Lower Sesan 2 dam has flooded large parts of an area in northeastern Cambodia

A massive Chinese-financed dam in Cambodia which was went into operation at the end of 2018 as the so far largest hydropower dam in the country has “washed away the livelihoods” of tens of thousands of villagers while falling short of promised energy production, Human Rights Watch said in a new report released on August 10.

The 137-page report entitled Underwater: Human Rights Impacts of a China Belt and Road Project in Cambodia alleges that the 400-megawatt Lower Sesan 2 dam in northeastern Cambodia has undermined the lives and livelihoods of thousands of indigenous and ethnic minority people.

The dam flooded large areas upstream of the confluence of the Sesan and Srepok Rivers, two tributaries of the Mekong River, the report said, threatening fish stocks and agricultural land crucial to millions living along the Mekong’s flood plains, the report said.

Tens of thousands of villagers living upstream and downstream have suffered steep losses to their incomes, John Sifton, Human Rights Watch’s Asia advocacy director and the report’s author, said, referring to interviews conducted over two years with some 60 people from various communities.

Power production levels fa behind expectations

The Cambodian government had pushed ahead with the project – which involved resettling about 5,000 people – in hopes of producing about one-sixth of Cambodia’s annual electricity needs as promised by Hydrolancang International Energy, the builder and a subsidiary of Chinese state-owned electricity company China Huaneng Group.

But production levels are “likely far lower, amounting to only a third of those levels,” the report said, urging the government to revisit the project’s compensation for the resettlement of people and implement “livelihood-restoration methods.”

Phnom Penh defends resettlements of villagers

However, the Cambodian government is defending the dam, saying it provided “the most positive impacts” and that the resettled villagers had been given new homes, farmland and access to electric power at better locations.

Huaneng Hydrolancang International Energy holds 51 per cent of the stake in the dam operator, while Cambodia’s largest business conglomerate Royal Group owns 39 per cent and Vietnamese EVN International the balance of ten per cent.

Cambodian tycoon’s conglomerate holds 39 per cent of dam operator

Royal Group, owned and controlled by Cambodian tycoon Kith Meng who is close to the country’s Prime Minister Hun Sen, has come repeatedly under fire in the past for land rights violations and environmental issues.

The dam, which cost a reported $780 million to build, is part of China’s Belt and Road initiative, a $1-trillion-dollar infrastructure vision for maritime, rail and road projects across Asia, Africa and Europe.

The initiative, which aims at extending China’s economic influence around the world, has been widely criticised for pushing small developing countries, including Cambodia and Laos, into unmanageable sovereign debt.



Support ASEAN news

Investvine has been a consistent voice in ASEAN news for more than a decade. From breaking news to exclusive interviews with key ASEAN leaders, we have brought you factual and engaging reports – the stories that matter, free of charge.

Like many news organisations, we are striving to survive in an age of reduced advertising and biased journalism. Our mission is to rise above today’s challenges and chart tomorrow’s world with clear, dependable reporting.

Support us now with a donation of your choosing. Your contribution will help us shine a light on important ASEAN stories, reach more people and lift the manifold voices of this dynamic, influential region.

$
Personal Info

Donation Total: $10.00

 

 

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