Dam collapse in Cambodia leaves four workers missing
Collapse on the Stung Atay dam in Western Cambodia likely due to leak
created by excess of water in under-construction structure
Global Post, December 2, 2012
Four workers have gone missing after the collapse of an in-progress
hydropower dam in Western Cambodia, apparently due to a leak in the
The Associated Press reports that the Saturday collapse occurred at the
Stung Atay Hydroelectric Project, a $255-million dollar dam on the Atay
river, funded by the Chinese state-owned China Datang Corporation.
A search is underway for the workers, reports the Herald Sun Australia,
and construction work has been halted for the time being.
Four workers were seriously injured, beside the four that have gone
missing in the incident. An eyewitness, according to AP, reported that
all the water formerly in the reservoir has been drained—likely a major
set-back for the project.
"A full investigation into the dam's collapse should be carried out, as
well as examination of whether the levels of dam safety expenditures
were sufficient or not," said Ame Trandem, Southeast Asia Program
Director for International Rivers, to GlobalPost.
"The death of any construction worker is simply unacceptable and should
be avoided at all costs," said Trandem, who noted that Cambodian dams
are gaining a reputation for being unsafe, with other worker deaths
elsewhere in the country in the past two years.
"While dam safety and failure is always a risk when building large dams,
the changing climate is also adding a new level of uncertainty that
needs to be better considered during the dam planning process," she added.
Read more from GlobalPost: Laos hydro dam upsets Mekong river neighbors
The dam has been in progress since 2008 and was projected to be
completed in 2012, according a report from Channel News Asia. The Stung
Atay hydropower project made the news recently when endangered Siamese
crocodiles, caught downstream of the project, were rescued by wildlife
groups and air-lifted to a different, safer location.
Environmentalists claim that the Stung Atay dam, situated in Cambodia's
Cardamom Mountains, has caused habitat destruction, the displacement of
local people, and the building of damaging new roads, among other
stressors on the environment.
Southeast Asian dams have been the source of considerable international
controversy in recent years, spurred by the controversial Xayaburi dam
on the Mekong, a massive project that could have dangerous environmental
However, Cambodia is a profoundly power-starved country: the United
Nations finds that only 22 percent of Cambodians have regular access to
electricity, and the vast majority of that power is used in Phnom Penh,
the capital city.
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