February 11, 2016: The press conference called for the discussion on Don Sahong Dam at the Summit in USA 2016 was conducted at the NGO Forum on Cambodia (NGOF) with the representatives of River Coalition of Cambodia (RCC) and community from Steung Treng and Tonle Sap Lake.
In the conference, organized by NGOF, RCC along with 13 other NGOs and the communities, released a letter requesting Cambodia Prime Minister Hun Sen claimed the Lao government to withdraw the construction of their Don Sahong hydropower dam and also suspend all hydropower dam projects along the Mekong River until the proper Environment Impact Assessment is being conducted. The request was raised due to the heavy risk of impacting the environment and bio-diversity in Cambodia.
In the letter, sent on the conference day, RCC and the communities shared the deep concerns over the impact of Don Sahong Dam construction to the environment, fish species and the livelihood of families living along the Mekong River.
Dr. Tek Vannara, NGOF’s Executive Director said that the Don Sahong Dam is not an issue to Cambodia along. It, definitely, has great negative impacts to Cambodian families, but along to families in Laos, Vietnam and Thailand. Otherwise, he mentioned, this project with impact crossing different countries needed the intervention from the Cambodian and relevant countries in finding solutions for it.
“The Laotian counterpart project is a serious concern. Hence, we, as the civil societies, proposed the Cambodian government taking this opportunity during the special Summit 2016 in the USA to call for support from the international organizations,” he said. “The constriction of the dam shall be postponed and the parties need to follow the agreement on the Mekong River, in which requested all parties to discuss before any construction of dams take place on the Mekong River. In the meantime, we also urge the secretariat of state working with the Mekong Committee to independently reexamine the project of the Don Sahong hydropower dam.”
The Don Sahong Dam is currently in the construction process. However, Mr. Yok Seng Long, Fisheries Action Coalition Team’s (FACT) Deputy Executive Director, at a press conference believed there is possibility to delay until the better solution is being provided.
“This is a long run issue, and we notice that all concerns we shared to the cross governments are being neglected, and they make things seem impossible to stop. But I believe this is not the case, as I believe there are chances of solutions as long the construction and wait for the ideal resolutions to be provided,” said Seng Long.
The extinction of vital fish species, specifically the Irrawaddy Dolphins – which is now less than a dozen along the Mekong River is another major concern to the communities. The loss of species and Irrawaddy meant the loss of food and livelihood related to eco-tourism sector.
“This project doesn’t only destroy our source of food, but our job,” Sem Von, a village representative from Kratie province, “how do they expect us to live without food and jobs? We cannot wait to die and we need the support from the government on this issue.”
The Don Sahong Dam, which will be 30 to 32 meters high and seven kilometers long, is being built just 2 kilometers from the Cambodian border. The dam project that own by the chief investor Mega First and Malaysian company is expected to finish by mid-2019 and could generate between 240 to 360 Megawatts of power.
There were over a dozen of media institutions joined the press conference.