In the context of a rapidly growing economy in Southeast Asia, which do you choose: maintaining and preserving indigenous livelihood or creating increased energy capacity for the city center?
This project looks at the impact of the Cheay Areng hydroelectric power dam on the Areng River in Koh Kong province, in the Southwest of Cambodia, and its impact on the Chong indigenous people. Here, we attempt to contextualize this issue by providing a brief background of Cambodia and it's geography, analyze human rights and social implications of the dam, assess the economic incentives of the Cheay Areng dam, and evaluate the environmental impact of the hydroelectric power dam in the Areng Valley.
The Cheay Areng Dam is a hydropower project in Cambodia’s Areng River Valley. The dam, which is expected to cost nearly $327 million USD, is being developed by Sinohydro, a Chinese hydropower company that control over other damming projects throughout Southeast Asia. This dam is expected to bring more energy and revenue into the country for hopes of increasing urbanization, electricity, and profit in the country. Hydropower is currently sought after for energy since there are few alternatives and it provides a renewable source of energy. Despite its economic incentives, however, there are several issues that have Cambodians, indigenous rights activists, and environmentalists in opposition to its completion. Specifically, the dam is expected to cause severe damage to the livelihoods of the Chong people living in the Areng Valley, as well as increase environmental degradation to this richly biodiverse region of Southeast Asia. The location of the dam is of importance since it is located within the Mekong basin, an important river resource surrounded by mountainous jungle, and this area is in the southern part of the Indochina Peninsula and is home to over 30 endangered species. This project looks at the impact of the Cheay dam in the Areng Valley and its impact on the Chong indigenous people in Cambodia. We first set up the foundation by sharing the contextual background of Cambodia's turbulent past. We then analyze the human rights and social implications of the dam. Next, we give an overview of the economic incentives of the Cheay dam. Finally, we dive deep into the environmental impact of the hydroelectric power dam.
History and Geography of Cambodia and the Lower Mekong River Region
Cambodia is a small nation located between Vietnam and Thailand in Southeast Asia. It is rich in both history and cultural significance, as well as pristine environmental landscapes and important environmental resources, such as the Mekong River, which runs north to south on the nation’s eastern end (National Geographic Society, 2016). Currently, Cambodia’s political structure is that of a constitutional monarchy, under which a Prime Minister, Hun Sen, is the head of the government and a Monarch serves as head of state. It also operates within a framework of a parliamentary, representative democracy (Cambodia.org, n.d.). However, much has changed for the country’s political and physical landscape over the years.
In 1863, French colonial rule took over Cambodia, lasting until 1953 when the country won its independence. After Sihanouk took power in 1960, and the war in neighboring Vietnam escalated, the country was increasingly getting drawn into the Cold War violence and in 1969, the U.S. President ordered bombings in Cambodia. Two years prior, in 1967, a civil war had broken out in Cambodia, and by 1970, Sihanouk was overthrown by General Lon Nol. Shortly thereafter, Sihanouk joined forces with the Khmer Rouge, a group formed out of the Vietnam’s North People Army and was made up primarily of communist members. In 1975, Khmer Rouge forces entered Phnom Penh, Cambodia’s capital city, and forced urban dwellers to relocate to the countryside to work in agriculture. This was a truly devastating time in the country’s history. Many were murdered by officials of the new regime, or died of starvation or exhaustion from the displacement (Kiernan 2002). In addition to involvements with the U.S. and Vietnam at this time, many have said that China supported the killings by donating large sums of money to Democratic Kampuchea in order to fight the Vietnamese invasion (Bezlova, 2009). Many more years of violence and terror took place, and it is not until 1993 that the monarchy was reinstated under Sihanouk, and not until 2007 that “UN-backed tribunals begin questioning Khmer Rouge suspects about allegations of genocide” (BBC, 2015).
The Cambodian Government approved its first major hydropower project in 2005. The resulting 110 meter high Kamchay Dam was built and is now operated by Sinohydro Corporation, China's largest dam builder. "This dam flooded 2,000 hectares of Bokor National Park, home to a number of endangered species and an important resource to local communities." At least five additional major dams have been approved since 2007, and it is estimated that at least twelve more are under study by Chinese, South Korean and Vietnamese companies (Mother Nature, n.d.).
The Areng River Valley is located within Cambodia, a country in Southeast Asia. The Cheay Areng hydroelectric dam itself is located within the Areng River Valley, which is part of the greater Lower Mekong Basin region. This area near the dam is a densely populated region of the Stung Cheay Areng (International Rivers, n.d.), which is surrounded by the 400,000 hectares mountainous jungle within the Central Cardamoms Protected Forest (Mother Nature, n.d.). Over 30 species of wildlife classified as rare and / or critically endangered within the region, including Siamese crocodiles, dragon fish, and Asian elephants. Nearly 2,000 members of one of Cambodia’s oldest ethnic groups, the Chong people, reside in the Areng Valley today (Mother Nature, n.d.).
Map: Damming the Mekong River
What about people's livelihood?
Hydropower Damming Impacts on Livelihood
The construction of dams on the Mekong river will have grave human rights concerns for the people dwelling in the lower Mekong basin. About 60 million people depend on the Mekong for subsistence through fishing; over 95 different ethnic groups claim the river as their lifesource (WWF, nd). More specifically, the rapid development of the hydroelectric power dams will threaten food and economic security of the local people as the people’s livelihood is “inextricably tied with the integrity of the natural environment” (Pearse-Smith, 2012). Fishermen and fisheries will lose access to the abundance of fish, used primarily as subsistence protein, as a result. While their total economic value is not known due to sale transfers in the informal sector, the value of Mekong fish have had a low estimate of US$3.9 to $7 billion (WWF, nd). Dams block the downstream movement of fish to waters that they would have otherwise migrated to. Fish ladders and water-filled fish elevators are known solutions to improve the survival of fish as they migrate but these alternatives have not been given consideration in the building of the Mekong dams.
Agricultural health will also be detrimentally impacted by the resulting flooding that accompanies dam existence. The agricultural and rice fields depends on the nutrients that the Mekong transports down the river which will be blocked by the dam. This ultimately leads to decreased yields to a region of Southeast Asia (predominantly Cambodia and Viet Nam) that heavily depend on agriculture for subsistence. These dams will therefore impact food security in these geographic areas.
Deforestation is another contested issue that will result from the dam creation, in order to clear enough land for proper supplies to be delivered and implementation of the dam. Healthy forests help protect settlements from droughts and flash-flood impacts. This means that communities near dams will be more vulnerable to the impacts of the aforementioned natural disasters. Forests also helps supply clean water, food and livelihood materials (Pearse-Smith, 2012). Thus, deforestation leads to decreased access to important materials, such as wood and bark in the rural areas. Since rural areas are not deeply integrated into the neoliberal market, the land is the most accessible locality to fulfill their needs to create objects that they require such as homes, instruments, etc. Finally, it offers a plethora of ecological services. Not only does deforestation impact the landscape but also contributes to climate change. When forests are lost, we also lose carbon dioxide sinks. As a result, large amounts of CO2 and other greenhouse gases get released into the atmosphere, which contributes greatly to climate change.
The case of the ethnic Chong people
In the specific case of the Areng Valley in Cambodia, the indigenous Chong people (one of the "Original Khmer" groups) have a special connection with the spirit forest that surrounds their village. They pray to the forest spirit for good harvests, health and prosperity. However, with the proposed dam, the valley will be flooded by a 10,000 hectare reservoir and the Chong people will be displaced by the proposed Cheay Areng dam. A Cambodian scholar says that the "Original Khmer" have lived in the area for 400 years; unlike many Cambodians, they are rotational farmers who farm on a piece of land for a year and then leaving it "fallow" as they move onto other parcels of land, in a rotational format (Zsombor and Khoun, 2015). Over 1,200 will be forcibly removed from the land and the environment that they have a sacred relationship with.
We pay special attention to the scenario in the Areng Valley due to the Chong people's strong local movement against the dam development. With the help of the Non-Governmental Organization (NGO) Mother Nature, the Chong people have been resisting the creation of this dam through organized, peaceful protests (Zsombor and Khuon, 2015). This local resistance is rooted in dedication to the Chong people's traditional way of life -- which would be lost if the dam is to be created and the land is to be flooded. However, this resistance movement is not without fear. The government, disliking dissidents, has a history of violent confrontations of armed raids with villages that fail to conform. However, Mother Nature and villagers still set up a roadblock -- which was broken up by soldiers in September. Soldiers continue to man the site.
The Cheay Dam has especially raised concerns over its environmental impact -- legitimized by impact evaluations. However Sinohydro, the Chinese dam construction company, decided to embark on this project in 2014. While it is true that 80 percent of Cambodia lacks a stable supply of electricity, this proposed $400 million project will only generate 108 MW (mega watts) of electricity (Zsombor and Khuon, 2015). Some thus believe that the damming operation is a scheme to gain access to the Areng Valley's plentiful natural resources and begin an expedition of logging and wildlife poaching in the name of hydroelectricity -- so while the local people will lose access to their natural resources, those behind the damming project will gain ownership over this land (Zsombor and Khuon, 2015). Thus, this further fuels local outrage and resistance.
While the Chong ethnic group would be compensated for the forced relocation, widely and locally supported Mother Nature activist Alejandro Gonzalez-Davidson remarks that it is equivalent to sending the people into "abject poverty" when looking at the government's empirical history in relocation (Yeophantong, 2014). The Western publication, the Diplomat clearly supports the resistance movements led by Mother Nature to stop the flooding of the "sacred and biodiverse valley" in its coverage on the Cheay dam-Chong ethnic people coverage. English publications based in Cambodia mostly focus on the repercussions of such activism in the Areng Valley. While the dam will supply the electrical demands in booming Southeast Asian metropolises, those who exist at the fringe -- rural families and indigenous peoples -- will surely suffer at the urban’s expense.
An interview with Professor Khatharya Um
Below is a transcript of a brief interview with Professor Khatharya Um, Associate Professor of Ethnic Studies and Department Chair of Peace and Conflict Studies.
Can you tell us what you know about the conflict in the Areng Valley with the Chong ethnic people?
There is a relationship between siltation, land and water, and loss of species. Deforestation affects the lifeways of thousands of people who live on the Mekong. They can no longer fish and dams are displacing communities. Where are they being displaced to? They’ll be resettled in an area that is not economically viable -- not a fair market. They won’t be sufficiently compensated.
What happens to the revenue?
The profits don’t stay in the country. The electricity is being exported to other parts of Southeast Asia, like Thailand or Laos. But a significant percentage of the rural communities in Laos don’t have electricity.
What do you directly work on that relates to human rights in Cambodia?
In terms of land, [there are a lot of sugar plantations that are] foreign owned and get their land through corrupt ways. There is no enforcement of the laws and many activists are getting killed [for speaking out]. A lot of the upland minorities (Cherai, etc.) who live on the forest edge are dependent on non-timber forest products. They depend on the forest for medicine. But there’s some hope. For example, Cambodia grows sugar commercially for export. But Pepsi made a statement that they wouldn’t grow their sugar where people were forcibly displaced. Chut Wutty was an environmental activist [who was shot dead by military police when he was investigating illegal logging].
How does climate change complicate this situation?
Droughts and floods are affecting Cambodia in different ways. Thousands were [and still are] being displaced economically. [There is no welfare system in Cambodia.]
How can we help?
Donating dollars makes a huge difference. [The buying power of the dollar in Cambodia is tremendous.] With little access to drinkable water, they drink from what they bathe. Some, dispossessed of land, have no other option but to sell children and become beggars in Thailand because 80% of Khmer [livelihood is] agrarian.
Amongst the Spirit Forest
Phun Chong, of Chong descent, stands near the Spirit Forest alter (Zsombor Peter/The Cambodia Daily).
Protesting the Cheay Dam
A group of villagers protest the hydroelectric dam project that are certain will destroy their sacred forest, livelihood and heritage (Mam Kaylanee/Pulitzer Center).
What is hydroelectric power and why do we use it?
How Hydroelectric Dams Work and Their Potential Impacts
In a hydroelectric dam, water is converted into energy. Water is stored in a reservoir so more of it may be used at one time. ("How Hydroelectric Energy Works", n.d.). When released, the water, powered by the force of gravity, rushes through the penstock, then to the turbine. ("How Hydroelectric Energy Works", n.d.) As the water pushes the turbine, magnets within the generator spin and create electricity. ("How Hydroelectric Energy Works", n.d.)
While Hydroelectric power is considered renewable resource, there are still negative environmental impacts associated with its use. For example dams that have flooded in areas of vegetation have been known to emit methane. ("How Hydroelectric Energy Works", n.d." Hydroelectric dams may also drastically alter rivers. As water gets trapped in reservoirs there is less water to flow which in turn may change water temperatures and deteriorate local habitats. ("How Hydroelectric Energy Works", n.d.). Also significant are the dams abilities to effect flow patterns because the water is exiting the dam at a different velocity that it would be otherwise. (How Hydroelectric Energy Works", n.d.)
Although Hydroelectric dams seem to create for a lot of negative environmental impacts, there may be ways to mitigate some of these. For example, dams can incorporate flow release into them so that the water coming out of the dams can be controlled, allowing for the dam flow to mimic that of the river so that animals that are accustom to that flow are less effected. ("How Hydroelectric Energy Works". n.d). Furthermore, fish will also be able to pass through turbines as with the advancements in technology. (How Hydroelectric Energy Work":, n.d.) With increased improvements in hydroelectric engineering, hydroelectric dams should become less environmentally devastating. Alternations to dams such as flow releases should be considered when governments or private companies decide to build dams.Use of hydroelectric power also may affect quality of water. As water passes through the turbine, this may result in low dissolved oxygen levels (Bunea, 2010). With lower levels of dissolved oxygen animals in water have a harder time breathing. (Bunea, 2010) Manufacturers of Hydroelectric power Plants, however, have begun to create low head turbines that create for higher dissolved oxygen levels. (Buena, 2010)
Breakdown of the Stung Cheay Areng dam project and its effects
minimum potential land flooding
displaced from their homes and livlihoods
Amount of energy created by dam
327 million US dollars
Estimated Cost of the Cheay Areng Dam
Economic Growth Motivation from Hydropwer
Cheay Areng Dam Costs and Benefits
The Cheay Areng Dam in Cambodia, which will be developed through Chinese investments, is one of the 12 proposed dams in the Mekong Region. The dam has the potential to create urbanization, decrease poverty, increase incomes and allow for greater consumption rates. Current and future projects reveal that Cambodia’s demand for energy does not meet the supply of energy. The 12 proposed dams in the Mekong Region are expected to provide 250,000 MW for the Lower Mekong Basin. Ten percent of this amount is prospected to be shared between Laos and Cambodia. (SEA Assessment). One hundred and eight megawatts (MW) of power are expected to be provided from the Cheay Areng Dam (Stung Cheay, 2010). Of the four countries in the Lower Mekong Basin, Cambodia will be most affected by the dams, as the dams could decrease the cost of energy by 30 percent (SEA Assessment, 2010).
In terms of costs and profits, the Cheay Areng Dam project will require investments in the range of 327 million US dollars (Stung Cheay, 2010). For all 12 dams costs are expected to be between 18-25 billion US dollars. The total revenue supplied by the 12 dams will be 3-4 billion per year. However, Cambodia will receive 11-12 percent of this revenue 25 years after the project is completed (SEA Assessment, 2010). Under a contract the developers and investors have the rights to all the revenue generated by the dam projects (Grumbine, nd). The development of the dams will create 7.9 billion US dollars in wages. Yet, it is expected that many of the workers will not be native Cambodians, but people hired from other areas (SEA Assessment, 2010).
Other important costs include the loss of wetlands (4-13.8 million US dollars), fish populations, traditional jobs, fertile lands, increased costs of health care due to malnutrition, and the expenses of relocating many communities. Fish's’ first sale cost is from 3.9 to 7 billion US dollars, but the value is much higher since the first sale value does not consider the economic value of selling the fish at markets, transporting the fish, and making fish related products (International Rivers, 2013). The proposed dams may decrease the fish catch by 60-70 percent, as seen in past dam construction along the Mekong Basin, (Orr et al, 2012) decreasing the amount of fishing jobs available. As many residents of Cambodia who live along the Mekong Basin are fisherpeople, their household incomes will be negatively affected by the losses in fish population. Those who decide to find new jobs will have travel costs which can be too expensive to pay (Real Costs, 2011).
Alternatives to Hydropower:
Cambodia does not have many sources of alternative energy. Thermal generation costs would cost 2-4 times the cost of hydropower development. There are also no known fossil fuel reserves (SEA Assessment, 2010).
Sinohydro Company- Economically Supporting the Cheay Areng Dam
Sinohydro, a Chinese State-owned company, is the world’s largest hydropower company with 50 percent of the market share for international hydropower (Sinohydro Corporation, nd). They currently involved in construction projects in 80 countries all over the world including the Mekong Region. In 2014, they made 6.2 billion dollars in overseas revenue (Structure of Sinohydro, nd). On their website they claim to hold to environmental protection and sustainability values while working with local communities to attain “shared goals,” (Message from the Chairman, nd). Yet, Sinohydro has also been critiqued on its hydropower projects as they have lacked concern for culture, community needs, the biodiversity, and the environment. One of their dam construction projects in Sudan was very controversial as the construction process flooded people out of their homes. Sinohydro did not comply after the United Nations requested that they terminate the project (Sinohydro Corporation, nd). Although Sinohydro claims to “pay attention to ecosystems” and “address Environmental Impact Assessments,” (Environmental Challenges, nd) local communities and organizations would disagree. In 2009 International Rivers and Sinohydro created a policy dialogue to encourage the use of ethical and environmental policies. Unfortunately, only ambiguous commitments have been made on Sinohydro part (Sinohydro Corporation, nd).
Damming the Environment
Because the Mekong River Valley is is made up of nearly 50,000 acres, it contains a diverse wealth of ecosystems. This includes multiple types of forests such as Wet Evergreens, Semievergreens, Mixed Decidious, Lower Montane, and Montane Conifer forests. (Campbell, 2009). Also important are it’s different swamps and wetlands such as the Laos Wetlands and Tonle Sap Wetlands. (Campbell, 2009)
The Mekong River is created from the runoff stemming from both snowmelt of the Tibetan Plateau and tributaries from Laos (Campbell, 2009). Because of the high number of tropical storms and steep catchments, the river is known for producing some of the largest floods in terms of runoff per catchment area (Campbell, 2009).
Major concerns for the Mekong Valley in regards to the proposed dams include potential destruction of ecosystems. By placing the hydroelectric dams within the Mekong river, its four, very different, flood pulse seasons, will change. Without the same transition seasons, certain biological processes will not be triggered like they have in the past, in turn creating for problematic changes to ecosystems. (SEA Assessment, 2010) This can be particularly problematic for fish and so also the fishing industry may be effected. (Campbell, 2009) The people who live around the Mekong are highly dependent on local fish for nutrients. (Campbell, 2009)
The Mekong’s fish population alone is incredibly diverse. In fact, the Mekong River Valley hosts 24 orders and 87 families of fish which make it, taxonomically speaking, the most diverse river in the world. (Campbell,2009) It is most dominated, however by different types of otophysan fish which include carp, minnows and loaches, and freshwater catfish. (Campbel,2009l).
Dams along the Areng River threaten many of these species. More species effected include include tigers, Asian elephants, pileated gibbons, and the Asian Arowana (a freshwater fish that is often considered lucky in many Asian cultures).("Cheay Areng Dam.", n.d.) More specifically, proposed reservoirs such as the one for the Cheay Areng Dam would flood a habitat known for its many endangered fauna as well as it being the breeding site of the endangered Siamese Crocodile. ("Cheay Areng Dam.", n.d.) This is significant in that the Siamese Crocodile is extinct in over 99% of its original range and this habitat includes the most important breeding site for the endangered Siamese Crocodile. ("Cheay Areng Dam.", n.d.)
Researchers have anticipated that with the insertion of these hydroelectric power dams will cause a reduction in sediment, this sediment supply being what aquatic animals need in order to survive (Rubin, 2015). In "Anticipated Geomorphic Impacts from Mekong Basin Dam Construction", researchers Zan K. Rubin, George Mathias Kondolf and Paul A. Carling made the case that if all proposed dams are to be produced this would result in a 96% reduction in sediment supply, which in turn, would make the river less productive and the delta less prominent. (Rubin, 2015)
In "Future sediment dynamics in the Mekong Delta floodplains: Impacts of hydropower development, climate change and sea level rise", researchers, using sediment transporting simulation found that hydroelectric power development along the Mekong was more dominant in affecting sediment dynamics in the floodplain than sea-level rises. (Manh et al., 2015) Furthermore, according to their experiment, there will likely be a 40% decrease in sedimentation in the overall floodplain while the sediment delivering out to the South China Sea would decrease to 50%. (Manh et al., 2015)
A contributing factor to this sedimentation depletion are reservoirs. As water gets trapped in the reservoirs the water that moves downstream will lack that same amount of sediment, which in turn, erodes bedrock and threaten habitats along the river along with aquatic food webs (Rubin, 2015).
The Mekong Delta is one of the largest deltas in the world and for about 6,000 years it has had stable sediment supplies which allowed it to grow, however, researchers have found, through use of satellite imagery that from 2003 to 2011, the sediment is depleting. (Anthony, 2013) In fact, researchers have found that the sediment was being depleted on the delta by an average of 4.4 m/y -1. (Anthony, 2013) On some parts of the delta this recession has been as high as 12m/y-1 such as on the Ca Mau peninsula. (Anthony, 2013).
Measuring Future Effects
The key scientific issues at play, that technology may be able to eventually solve, seem to have to do with the reduction of fishing populations in the Mekong River and Sedimentation Depletion.
More studies will have to be taken on the populations of fish in the Mekong River. With emerging advancements in fish-safe turbine technology, only time will tell if populations of fish within the Mekong get back to healthy levels. To continue to measure fish populations in the Mekong, scientists will probably use trawl nets to catch multiple samples of the fish in question in order to get a representative size. (“Education and Outreach”, n.d.)In order to compare the population of the whole area the scientists will have to weigh all of the fish that are the same species. They will then, create a proportion to compare weight within that given area to that of what it would be for the entire area of interest. By continually comparing the estimates over years, one will be able to tell whether population is increasing or declining. (“Education and Outreach”, n.d.)
In order to see if sedimentation is receding or increasing in the delta, aerial photographs have been used in the past. In order to actually tell how much sediment in transport is within the river, however, researchers need to measure this load on the ground. A possibility is to use blackscatter sensors to measure suspended sediment within the actual delta itself. One more method is to measure turbidity by use of an electronic turbidity meter or tube. By comparing the cloudiness of what the turbidity device reads year after year, scientists will be able to compare how much sediment is flowing throughout in different parts of the river. (“Turbidity Measurements”, 2016)
Only time will tell if additional dams on the Mekong will effect both the people and the environment negatively or if additional technological advancements will do well in halting harmful effects. Through use of scientific measurement, researchers however, will be able to document the results, in either case.
Find Out More
See what other people are saying and doing about the damming of the Areng River Valley
Fight for the Areng Valley
by Kalyanee Mam
In this trailer for Fight for the Areng Valley, Buddhist Monks are shown arriving to support the Chong people in their opposition of dam development.
Mother Nature Cambodia Areng Valley, Koh Kong
from Cambodia TV Cambodian Broadcasting Network CBN
This video is an anti-Sinohydro/Cambodian government propaganda piece that depicts the Areng Valley in all it's natural beauty.
Examining media reporting, stakeholder positions, and decision-making processes
Media reports on the Cheay Areng Dam cover a variety of views including the benefits of hydroelectric power, Sinohydro's financial capabilities as the world's largest dam builder, the effects on people's livelihoods, and the environmental issues created by the dam. Generally, nongovernment organizations, human rights and conservation groups emphasize the problems with the dam in regards to the displacement of people, infringement on human rights, and degrading the ecosystem in the valley. Other reports give a more balanced approach, citing both positive and negative aspects and ending the piece with a final direction, most often indicating the dam project should be suspended until further study. Conservative reports mainly highlight the economic and energy motives behind the dam construction. As could be expected, many of these reports are written by people who have only researched or traveled to the Areng Valley. For example Oxfam Australia is a group who is against the construction of the Areng dam and work with local organizations to support their goals. As their organization name suggests, they are not originally from the region. A report from Fox News, in favor of the dam, was primarily written by a journalist from Shanghai. Thus, the opinions and thoughts of the people who live in the Areng Valley and will be affected by the construction of the dam do not commonly surface in reports. Although there may be some complications, it would be beneficial to learn more about what the people in the Areng Valley believe about the situation. Hopefully, the film by Kaylanee Mam may present a solution to this issue.
In terms of the stakeholder positions, it is important to understand the incentives behind each stakeholder, beyond the Chong people. As an example, Sinohydro may have incentives for increasing profits and for maintaining their reputation as the most powerful dam building company. Those who also invested in the project may have similar economic incentives. The incentives of these companies may illuminate if their goals align with human rights values. There may be reason for opposition to the dam construction if the companies only see this as a project to gain profits without regard to the people and environment. As several NGO's explain, people in the community may be against the construction of the dam since it would force them to relocate and find alternative jobs, since the dam would significantly reduce the amount of fish and fisherpeople. The Cambodian government currently holds a stance for the construction of the dam. This could possibly be due to pressures from the Chinese government. Additionally, the urban centers of Cambodia and other Southeast Asian countries that the energy generated gets exported to will benefit from the additional electricity. As quickly developing countries, electricity is in high demand; dam corporations such as Sinohydro and national governments are happy to meet these demands, oftentimes in sacrifice of indigenous livelihoods -- such as the Chong ethnic people's.
The decision making process luckily has included some environmental assessment and could use more input from people directly affected by the dam. Although there has been resistance from people in the Areng Valley, the government and the hydropower company continue to push their agendas. There has also been a call for more environmental assessment. These factors are critical in ensuring that the decision making process is fair and equitable for all stakeholders.
An Interview with Grace Mang of International Rivers
For more information
"Mother Nature is a leading Cambodian environmental grassroots movement fighting to put an end, through direct yet peaceful means, to the systematic destruction of Koh Kong's precious natural resources." Its campaign, "Saving the Areng Valley" is now in it's third year.
"Since 1985, International Rivers has been at the heart of the global struggle to protect rivers and the rights of communities that depend on them." The organization's Southeast Asia program works with partners in Cambodia to "support their calls for reparation for dam-affected communities and sustainable energy development."
An article for Mother Jones by activist and director Kalyanee Mam detailing the deal between Sinohydro Resources and Cambodian power brokers, and how the proposed dam has put the Areng Valley at risk.
A Final Project For ESPM C133/ GEOG C135
Geography / CRS
Geography / Environmental Economics
Intellectual work is a collective act.
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