Meet between officials, dam villagers cancelled

Source: Phnom Penh Post

A mother navigates a flooded area with her child on Sunday after water levels rose due to heavy rains and the closing of several of the Lower Sesan II hydropower dam’s gates in Stung Treng province. Photo supplied

A meeting between representatives of two ethnic minority communities in Stung Treng that will be affected by the official start of operations at the Lower Sesan II dam was cancelled yesterday after provincial authorities placed too many conditions on the meeting, activists said.

Convened to allow some of the 200 residents of Kbal Romeas village and the already-flooded Srekor village to discuss their desires not to be relocated, the meeting was called off because only 10 representatives were to be let in instead of 35, said Mother Nature activist Thun Ratha.

Sun Youra, the development issues program director at NGO Forum, which had organised the meet, said provincial authorities had also said that any media attending would not be allowed to record the discussions that took place, leading the villagers to become suspicious.

“We do not want a secret meeting; without the wide presence of the journalists [the meeting] is useless,” Kbal Romeas community member Srang Lanh said.

Stung Treng Provincial Hall spokesman Men Kong denied that either of the conditions placed on the meeting had led to its cancellation, and said that NGO Forum had failed to coordinate with the two communities to ensure they would be present at the meeting.

Youra said he now did not know how the issue of the Srekor and Kbal Romeas holdouts would be resolved before the dam officially goes online.

“Unfortunately we could not reach an agreement,” he said. “If the parties cannot meet, we don’t know how to deal with the problem.”

Read more: Dam to bring power, pain

Meanwhile, after a two-week trial closure of eight of the Lower Sesan II dam’s 10 gates, the Hydropower Lower Sesan II Company reopened four of the gates yesterday.

The water levels at the dam itself now stand at around 69 metres, according to company representative Chhay Meng, who said the water levels would be reduced to 52 metres for the dam’s September 25 official inauguration, which will be presided over by Prime Minister Hun Sen.

To avoid serious floods, Meng said, the dam company will now only keep three or four dam gates open at a time until the opening ceremony. A combination of the gates’ closure and heavy rains led to flooding in Srekor last week, with some parts of the village 1.5 metres under water.

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