Cambodia’s Sambor dam plans threaten Mekong River

KRATIE PROVINCE, Cambodia — “If the dam is built, it will be like before, in the time of the Khmer Rouge when we all had to move,” said Plau Saret, 44, of Domrae Village on the Mekong River island of Koh Tnaot, right next to the proposed Sambor Dam site. In 2011, she and her husband built a new house. Then, a few years ago, she saw Chinese surveyors digging in the river.

The Sambor Dam is one of Cambodia’s priority energy projects, according to the country’s “Master plan for the development of energy generation.” This plan was a well-kept secret until two pages from it appeared Feb. 17 in a snapshot posted on the Facebook page of Phay Siphan, a government spokesman.

The plan posted by Siphan states the Sambor Dam will be completed in three stages from 2025-2027, with a total power output of 1,800 megawatts. Attempts by Mongabay to get government comments on the plan were not answered and few details are yet known about the proposed scheme.

First published on Mongabay.com

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    Mr Leurn Sittar, 50, ploughs his field next to the Mekong River with buffalo. He says that the alluvial sediment left behind as the wet season flood waters recede, help to fertilise the soil and the proximity of the field to the river means the plants can reach water. The village will be submerged by floodwaters if the Sambor hydropower dam goes ahead as scheduled. Mr Sittar is worried that his family might have to leave the house that he built in 2011. Domrae Village, Koh Tnaot Island, Kratie Province, Cambodia.
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    Trees are bent over by annual wet season flood waters in front of the setting sun. This populated area of islands in the Mekong mainstream will be submerged by floodwaters if the Sambor hydropower dam goes ahead as scheduled. Mekong river, Koh Tnaot Island, Kratie Province, Cambodia.
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    Living on Tnaot island in the dam’s inundation area, Commune head Mr Suong, 64, fled the Khmer Rouge genocide to the Island in 1979 to seek protection from the invading Vietnamese forces. His commune had made a collective decision to flee and found the island, one of four in the river, uninhabited. Now it is threatened by a giant hydropower scheme.
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    Men bathing in a channel between two islands in the Mekong River at sunset. The village will be submerged by floodwaters if the Sambor hydropower dam goes ahead as scheduled. Domrae Village, Koh Tnaot Island, Kratie Province, Cambodia.
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    Children play in a tree overlooking the Mekong River on Koh Tnaot Island, Kratie Province, Cambodia. The island will be submerged by floodwaters if the Sambor hydropower dam goes ahead as scheduled.
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    Mrs Naerd and he son sit in their small house in front of their harvested rice sacks while her husband is away at work in Sambor village working on a constrcution project. Sambor hydro-dam threatens these islanders of the Mekong river.
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    The island of Rongeav in the Mekong mainstream is over 80km long and provides farmland for thousands of people. If plans go ahead as scheduled by the Cambodian Government, this island will be submerged along with three others, to make a reservoir for the Sambor hydropower dam.
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    When Mrs Khin was away from her home at an event to promote renewable energy, eight policemen harrassed her neighbouring sister. Under the current regime of tyrant Prime Minister Hun Sen, protest is repressed, and NGOs are prevented from speaking out.
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    Mother Sok Khey takes care of her 12 day old newborn baby named Reak Smey in the headman’s house in Rote Village next to the Mekong River. This and neighbouring islands will be submerged by floodwaters if the Sambor dam goes ahead as scheduled. Rote Village, Koh Tnaot Island, Kratie Province, Cambodia.
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    A boat landing on Tnaot Island in the Mekong mainstream at dusk. A hydropower dam is scheduled to submerge this area of islands.
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    A ferryman at the front of the boat from Real Island to Tnaot Island at sunset in the Mekong River. This area of islands in the mainstream North of Sambor village, is scheduled to be inundated if the Sambor hydropower dam is built as planned. Over 19000 people would be displaced by the dam reservoir, greater than any other Mekong hydropower project. Kratie Province, Cambodia.
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    Boatman Mr Vek Kmeang of Rote village, Tnaot Island, drives his boat up a channel between two islands in the Mekong river at dusk. This area of islands in the mainstream North of Sambor village, is scheduled to be inundated if the Sambor hydropower dam is built as planned. Over 19000 people would be displaced by the dam reservoir, greater than any other Mekong hydropower project. Kratie Province, Cambodia.
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    A baby lays on the floor next to personal belongings, behind a group of local people at a workshop about water governance. The village will be submerged by floodwaters if the Sambor hydropower dam goes ahead as scheduled. Rote Village, Koh Tnaot Island, Kratie Province, Cambodia.
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    A woman irrigates her vegetable garden with water pumped from the Mekong river using a diesel pump on Rongeav Isalnd. Four isands above Sambor village in Kratie province are threatened with inundation due to a massive hydropower project.
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    A fisherman shows off his catch in the Mekong River in an area populated by Irrawaddy dolphins. None of the fishermen in the photo had never heard about the hydropower dam scheduled to submerge this area of islands. Mekong River, Koh Rongeav island, Kratie Province, Cambodia.
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    A fisherman mends his net in the Mekong River in an area populated by Irrawaddy dolphins. He had never heard about the hydropower dam scheduled to submerge this area of islands. Mekong River, Koh Rongeav island, Kratie Province, Cambodia.
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    A fisherman throws his cast net into the Mekong River in an area populated by Irrawaddy dolphins. A hydropower dam is scheduled to submerge this area of islands. Mekong River, Koh Rongeav island, Kratie Province, Cambodia.
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    A fisherman pulls his cast net out of the Mekong River in an area populated by Irrawaddy dolphins. Mekong River, Koh Rongeav island, Kratie Province, Cambodia.


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