Environment Minister Asks for Patience on Areng Valley Dam

Environment Minister Say Sam Al on Monday asked environmental activists and opposition politicians to be patient as evaluations are carried out into the likely impacts of a controversial proposed dam in Koh Kong province’s Areng Valley.

The National Assembly’s agriculture commission, led by CNRP lawmaker Pol Ham, summoned Mr. Sam Al to parliament Monday to answer questions on topics including the proposed 108-megawatt Stung Chhay Areng dam.

Environment Minister Say Sam Al attends a questioning session at the National Assembly on Monday called by opposition lawmaker Pol Ham. (Siv Channa/The Cambodia Daily)
Environment Minister Say Sam Al attends a questioning session at the National Assembly on Monday called by opposition lawmaker Pol Ham. (Siv Channa/The Cambodia Daily)

Mr. Ham last week flew by helicopter to the remote dam site, and told reporters after Monday’s meeting that he had reported his findings to Mr. Sam Al.

“The third commission went to visit the Areng area. After we saw it with our own eyes and met the people, we saw that there will be impacts on culture, people’s livelihoods, the forests and the wildlife if this Areng dam is built,” he said.

Mr. Ham said his commission had also asked Mr. Sam Al to push for a specific law requiring environmental impact assessments (EIAs) instead of an existing sub-decree.

“Besides these issues, we…requested His Excellency the minister to discuss EIAs at a regional level, not just the local level, because there are some places like Laos where there is the building of dams that can affect Cambodia,” he said.

Following the commission meeting, Mr. Sam Al told reporters he had told Mr. Ham to be patient while environmental assessments are carried out on the proposed dam.

“For Areng…please give us a chance to make a thorough assessment first. The decision on whether to build or not is another story, but we need to study now,” Mr. Sam Al said.

Villagers around the Areng Valley worry the government will approve the dam regardless of the assessment’s results, concerns heightened when a Chinese construction company recently announced it had signed a contract with the company backing the dam.

The Environment Minister asked the local community not to prevent such assessments from going ahead.

“If the conducting of studies is prevented, I think that it’s a problem and we should not walk this way,” Mr. Sam Al said.

He also said that a specific EIA law was already being drafted.

“We have tried our best to receive inputs from all areas for this law because we hope that the implementation will be efficient when the law comes before the Assembly,” he said.

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