Hundreds of Chong families are facing eviction at the hands of Sinohydro (Cambodia) United, a Chinese firm that recently took over plans to build a 108-MW dam in the Areng Valley, in the heart of the Cardamom Protected Forest. Construction, which has yet to start, is expected to flood some 20,000 hectares, including the community’s sacred forests and a critical habitat for the endangered Siamese Crocodile.
“If the dam is built it will hurt our traditional ways and our livelihood, which depends on the forest,” said Has Ley, speaking at a press conference organized by the NGO Mother Nature in Phnom Penh.
Members of the Independent Monks Network for Social Justice, which has also taken up the cause, said they will soon organize protests in front of the Chinese Embassy and Sinohydro’s Phnom Penh office.
The families, monks and NGOs believe Sinohydro may be using the project merly as cover to plunder the area’s trees and minerals. Some claim the project is not viable, and two Chinese firms have already pulled out.
“It’s not a real dam,” said Mother Nature cofounder Alex Gonzalez-Davidson. “It’s a project that doesn’t make any sense but it’s still going to go ahead because of corruption and other things.”
Sinohydro officials in charge of the project could not be reached for comment. Officials at the provincial department of mines and energy could also not be reached.
In March, department director Pich Siyun said all the necessary studies for the project had been finished and that the affected families had agreed to resettle.
The families say they have not agreed to the move and for the past several weeks have kept watch over the only road leading in and out of the project area, preparing to block it if the firm attempts to begin construction.
(Additional reporting by Zsombor Peter)