The Lower Sesan 2 Dam will soon flood several Cambodian Communities

Photo: Savann Oeurm/Oxfam AU

By Savann Oeurm, Socheata Sim and and Kimheng Cheng, members of the Natural Resources Governance team in Phnom Penh.

The Lower Sesan 2 Dam will soon flood several Cambodian Communities; can it at least provide fair compensation?

Chhea Kreng is a 26-year-old woman from Sreh Sronok village. Her community is threatened by the Lower Sesan 2, a large hydropower dam currently under construction on the confluence of two Mekong River tributaries. Besides severe impacts on the fish population, the dam would flood her village and many others — leaving her community with no option but relocation.

Chhea attended a public forum (organised by Oxfam’s partners) with Cambodian authorities, the dam’s developers, and community representatives from the villages at risk. This forum is part of Oxfam’s ongoing effort to raise the voices of the most vulnerable communities.

She shares what she learnt at the forum and how her community is going to be compensated for their loss.

Q: What are the issues your community is facing?

In my village, people have to leave and relocate to a new village. The company constructing the dam offers compensation to villagers but it is not one that villagers can accept … the houses offered are not of good quality and villagers won’t accept them. The agricultural land at the new site is not as good as the land we possess now at our village.

Q: Do you think this public forum is beneficial?

In the village we face problems related to the Lower Sesan 2 Hydropower dam, and through this forum we can raise these problems so that everybody can hear them. We can discuss whether what the company is doing is beneficial or not for the villagers. The issues were presented and heard by the company’s representatives, the provincial governor, and relevant civil society/NGOs.

Q: Do you feel the representatives of the company, the ministry, and provincial authority addressed your concerns at the forum?

They addressed some concerns, leaving others unresolved. For instance, villagers in my village asked their new house and land to be 50m x 100m; they gave us one of 20m x 50m. We requested the houses to be built in two rows at each side of the road; and no one asked for a market. The company built 3–4 rows of houses randomly placed at each side of the road and sized 20m x 50m; and they set up a market.

Q: Did you raise all these concerns with the authority and the company?

I personally did not, but other villagers from the community did.

Q: Are you happy with the response? Which response would meet your needs?

The construction of the houses will remain randomly placed and they will still set up the market. Regarding the poor quality of the housing construction, I heard the provincial (authority) and the company responding that they could make changes and provides warranties through the contract. This is a response I can consider. What I cannot accept is the proposed reimbursement of our assets; it doesn’t match their price. For instance, a tree, how much does it cost? We would like the cost to be reasonable. Not too much, but acceptable. And I didn’t hear their response on this.

Q: Do you wish that this kind of forum convenes in the future?

Yes, this forum could be a good venue for the problems that have not been addressed yet. The provincial council, the company and anyone who is involved could help address all the issues we need to discuss. I believe if we have many forums like this, at least half of the problems will be addressed. At least I strongly hope so.  If there is no forum, we can’t do much about our problems with the company at the village and nobody would know. The company is not giving what our communities want. They only verbally respond “yes, yes”, but they do not put it in practice.

Read more about Oxfam’s work in the Mekong region.