Source: Khmer Times
A group of 50 youth, community and civil society representatives from Cambodia, Laos, Myanmar and Thailand gathered to celebrate the International Day of Action for Rivers in Kratie province yesterday.
They used the event in Sambo district to urge the government and the public to protect rivers and stop the construction of dams on the Mekong, which they fear will destroy natural resources and biodiversity.
Kai Vanda, a local community member who joined the celebration, said the river is a lifeline for people in the area, including farmers and fishing communities.
He said it is everyone’s job to protect the river and speak out against dam construction, which will damage environmental biodiversity and fisheries resources.
“Our people have always lived peacefully along the river without dams,” he said. “We can grow crops and depend on the river for our livelihoods.
“But if there is a hydropower dam, people can no longer live or run businesses in those areas because the land floods. We are very concerned about the potential for hydropower dams.”
Thin Savai, who was representing the Cambodian Youth Network at the event, said the health of the Mekong is essential to Cambodian people, who will face many challenges if the government allows the construction of dams.
“The river is an artery and gives us life,” he said. “It plays a major role in the country’s development. I call on the Cambodian government to protect the river and ban the construction of dams on Cambodian rivers, especially the Mekong.”
Sambo district governor Soam Sarith said young people’s involvement in the celebration of the International Day of Action for Rivers was a good thing.
But he said the event should have been coordinated with the government’s annual river festival in Stung Treng province later this month
“The young people’s celebration differs from the government event, but I’m not saying they shouldn’t do it,” he said. “The celebration is a good thing, but if students want to promote this internationally, they should work with the government.”
Tek Vannara, the executive director of the NGO Forum on Cambodia, said government decision-makers should listen to and take recommendations from all relevant parties before permitting any project to build dams on the Mekong. He said measures must also be put in place to ensure the river’s resources are used effectively.
An Energy Ministry official confirmed at a public forum in February that any investment project to build dams in Cambodia would be subject to environmental and community impact assessments. The ministry pledged not to allow harmful construction on the river.
The government’s third annual river festival in Stung Treng at the end of the month is intended to disseminate information on the importance of rivers and efforts to protect the environment, biodiversity and cultural traditions of riverside communities.