Government Delays New Studies on Dams Backed By Kith Meng

The Mines and Energy Ministry has yet to sign a memorandum of understanding with business mogul Kith Meng to undertake studies of three new hydropower dams, more than three months after the Council of Ministers gave it permission to do so.

In late October, the council sent the ministry a letter giving it the green light to sign the memorandum for feasibility and impact assessment studies of the three proposed dams, including the Sambor dam in Kratie province, which would be Cambodia’s first dam on the main stream of the Mekong River.

Kith Meng, right, poses with Mines and Energy Minister Suy Sem in front of Lower Sesan II dam last month in Stung Treng province, in a photograph posted to Facebook by one of Mr. Meng’s employees.

The letter, obtained last week, was the first confirmation that Mr. Meng was backing the projects.

This week, a spokesman for the ministry, Victor Jona, said the memorandum had not been signed “because at least we need to see the study by NHI [Natural Heritage Institute] first…. We have to see the results first.” Mr. Jona did not say when the results would be ready.

According to International Rivers, a U.S.-based NGO, the ministry hired NHI, also based in the U.S., in 2013 to study the feasibility of the Sambor dam at three proposed sizes: 1,363 megawatts, 1,703 MW and 2,000 MW.

The ministry and Mr. Meng are now considering building it at 2,600 MW, which would make it the country’s largest dam several times over.

Environmental protection groups worry that constructing the dam would devastate the Mekong River Basin’s fish stocks, which millions of Cambodians depend on to survive.

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