To Be Dammed…
Work in progress… See more work at THIS and THIS link.
The construction of the Sesan2 dam in Stung Treng province (Northern Cambodia) is well under way and supposed to be finished by 2016-17, threatening the livelihood of 5 villages.
For sure Cambodia needs dams to fuel its economic growth. For Banlung city alone the power needs jumped from 1 Mw in 1998 to 7 Mw today. That it has to be done at the expense of people living along the shores of the Sesan and the Srepok rivers or anyone else is questionable. The monetary compensation policy for those whose houses and land will be submerged is rather difficult to assess: there are very different views on the price of land. The plan at the relocation site does not respond to the needs of the villagers: a plot of land of 5 meter by 20 meter is insufficient to build a house, fit the cattle, chicken, tractor, boat engine, cart and other usual paraphernalia found on a farm. The quality of the allocated 5 hectare of farmland is uncertain and might not be suitable to grow the rice.
The impact on the fish population for sure will be felt by the relocated villagers, but also by those living downstream: it is estimated that the planned dams on the North Cambodian rivers will diminish the number of fish by 9%.
The ecological impact, even before the Sesan2 is finished, is already considerable. The future reservoir for the dam is being cleared of all its precious timber, much to the benefit of those who will trade further down the line but also to the villagers themselves who are scrambling to make big money. The atmosphere in Srekor village has totally changed. From a quiet village with some buffaloes chewing on hay, it turned into a showcase of the latest 2700 $US motorbike.
So what is the real price of those dams going to be? The purely economical one or the one integrating the human and ecological impact? Will it only be the one paid for wages, bags of cement and steel (which in normal circumstances would be 1.2 million $US per potential Mw and seems to be more like 2.1 million $US for the Sesan2), or the one where the company, the Cambodian government, the villagers and, yes, even the fish will be satisfied?
What is the real price for development anyway? Clearly, human intellect, if it wasn’t obscured by greed, be it in Cambodia or in any other country, could find decent answers, provide satisfying solutions.