Sesan locals agree to new village

Source: Khmer Times

Villagers walk through flood waters caused by the dam. KT/Mai Vireak

Families refusing to relocate from their homes near the Lower Sesan II dam have said they will all leave if they can establish a new village on their community forest and ancestral lands.

Fort Kheun, a resident who has been fighting to stay in Sre Ko commune, said locals accept that their old village is now uninhabitable, given the severity of floods caused by the dam.

He said all 76 remaining families have agreed to move, but only if they can make new homes on land close to their village, and not if they are forced to go to an area chosen by the companies behind the dam.

“We cannot fight with water, so we have to give our old village to them, but we will meet the authorities on Monday at our temporary homes,” he said.

Mr Kheun said villagers would ask officials to temporarily stop flooding from the dam so they can remove their belongings.

The issue of infrastructure, including a safe place for animals to be kept and a school for local children will also be discussed, he said.

“We have only removed about 30 percent of our property so far. We need them to reduce the water levels, otherwise we cannot bring the rest out,” he said.

On October 8, another gate at the controversial hydropower dam was closed, causing existing floodwaters to rise in the village. The level of the dam’s reservoir reached 73 metres, forcing villagers to move to higher ground.

Another villager, Fort Khorn, 35, said he and other locals would be satisfied if they could move to their ancestral land as opposed to the place provided by the company.

“I see the floods in my old village as our tears,” he said.

He added that while residents are happy to set up their new village themselves, they expect the authorities to pay compensation for the property they lost in floods caused by the dam.

“I could not remove my property on time because the water levels rose so fast,” he said.

Stung Treng provincial authority spokesman Men Kong said the 76 remaining families could create a new village, but only if they joined with some other locals to bring the population of the new settlement up to 150 families.

“We cannot reduce the flood water levels, but our authorities will help villagers bring out their property,” he added.

Prime Minister Hun Sen visited the Lower Sesan II dam area in September and ordered the construction company and provincial authorities to prepare money and houses for families in Sre Ko and Kbal Romeas communes who refused to accept compensation to move to relocation sites.

Construction of the dam is scheduled to be completed in 2019 at a total estimated cost of $816 million. Three companies are involved in the dam: Cambodia’s Royal Group owns 39 percent, China’s Hydrolancing International Energy has a 51 percent stake and Vietnam’s EVN International owns 10 percent.

When complete it will generate 400 megawatts of power, which will supply Stung Treng, Kampong Cham, Kratie, Preah Vihear, and Ratanakkiri provinces with electricity, ending their dependence on electricity from Laos.

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