Forest To Be Cut Down, Sold to Facilitate Koh Kong Dam

Before construction on the 18 megawatt Kirirom III hydropower dam on the Stung Pongrol river in Koh Kong province is completed, 327 hectares of forest in Sre Ambel district’s Dang Peng commune will be cleared for the new reservoir, forestry administration officials said yesterday.

Open bidding for the 9,000 cubic meters of timber the forestry administration plans to harvest will begin on July 19, according to an advertisement for the planned government auction which appeared in a local newspaper yesterday.

“All the trees need to be cut down and cleared away so that they do not hinder turbines,” Forestry Administration Chief Chheng Kim Sun said yesterday.

According to Mr Kim Sun, the reservoir has been clearly demarcated so loggers will have no excuse to stray into neighboring areas to illegally cut down trees.

Dang Peng commune chief Meng Yeay said that large trees were felled in a local village in order to make way for an access road to the dam. According to Mr Yeay, the road now cuts across land owned by 10 families, none of whom have been compensated by dam developer China Electric Power Technology Import and Export Corp.

“What the community needs is school buildings and roads,” said Mr Yeay, adding that negotiations between local residents and company officials to determine compensation for the lost land are ongoing.

A portion of the reservoir area also lies within the 1,200 hectares of forest managed by local communities, according to Mr Yeay.

Pich Siyun, director of Koh Kong provincial department of industry, Mine and Energy, estimated yesterday that the $40-million Kirirom III dam is about half-finished and that it will likely be completed by in 2012.

Mr Siyun said that he did not know how villagers would be compensated for the forestland lost.

A 2008 report commissioned by the Rivers Coalition of Cambodia and the American Friends Service Committee said that if the government failed to proceed with care, the dam to be built in Kirirom III could denude the riverbanks, kill aquatic life and flood roughly 536 hectares of land.

The report suggested that the dam could also prove to be a model for regional hydroelectric power generation if it was engineered to avoid flooding local farming communities.

Last year, the Senate and National Assembly approved a $540-million deal with China National Heavy Machinery for two dams in Koh Kong district’s Tatay commune and a $495-million deal with the Michelle corporation for two dams in Thmar Baing district’s Russei Chrum commune.

© 2010 – 2015, The Cambodia Daily. All rights reserved No part of this article may be reproduced in print, electronically, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed without written permission.