The Lower Sesan 2, a
400-megawatt project and one of the widest dams in Asia, has come under
criticism since its completion in 2018, including for flooding large
areas of the Sesan and Srepok rivers. The construction project itself
forced the displacement of around 5,000 people, according to HRW
, with those affected “coerced into accepting inadequate compensation.”
Tens of thousands are believed to have suffered devastating losses to their incomes.
authorities need to urgently revisit this project’s compensation,
resettlement, and livelihood-restoration methods, and ensure that future
projects don’t feature similar abuses,” HRW’s Asia advocacy director John Sifton said following the release of the report.
Lower Sesan 2 dam washed away the livelihoods of Indigenous and ethnic
minority communities who previously lived communally and mostly
self-sufficiently from fishing, forest-gathering, and agriculture.
the impact on the community, HRW has also raised concerns about the
production capacity of the dam, arguing that output is “likely far lower” than the goal of “one-sixth of Cambodia’s annual electricity.”
findings come after the group interviewed more than 60 members of the
community, civil society leaders, academics, scientists and individuals
with expert knowledge of the project.
Cambodian government spokesperson Phay Siphan rejected HRW’s concerns and defended the dam project saying it has provided “positive impacts” and arguing that villagers who were resettled have been given new homes, farmland and electricity.
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“The allegations are not reasonable, they don’t look at
Cambodian experiences…and the new location is better than the old place,” media reports quoted Phay Siphan as saying in response to the report.
The Lower Sesan 2 dam is not the first project constructed as part of
China’s Belt and Road Initiative to face criticism for damaging environmental effects or a disregard for community concerns. Other
projects flagged by HRW include the development of Pakistan’s port city of Gwadar and the Myitsone Dam project in Myanmar’s Kachin State.