Villagers Find Temporary Shelter as Sesan Dam Floods Homes

Families in a Stung Treng province village who have defied government warnings that testing of the Lower Sesan II dam would inundate their homes fled to nearby hills over the weekend as floodwaters reached 1 meter in depth, a villager said yesterday.

Nearly two weeks after testing of the 400-megawatt dam began, water entered Srekor village on Wednesday night. By Saturday, it was engulfed.

A woman and her child wade through floodwaters from the Sesan II dam’s testing in Stung Treng’s Srekor village on Friday. (Adhoc)

“The village is flooded about 1 meter deep and most of the people moved to the safety hills,” said Suth Thoeun, referring to a small hill a few kilometers away where villagers had set up temporary shelters.

Srekor and nearby Kbal Romeas village sit within what will turn into the dam’s 36,000-hectare reservoir. The majority of the area’s 5,000 residents have reluctantly moved to nearby resettlement sites, but about 120 families in the two villages have refused to leave, skeptical their homes will be destroyed by the floodwaters.

The Sesan river rose above 71 meters at a key measuring station on Saturday, according to provincial spokesman Men Kong, far exceeding a previously given threshold of 68 meters at which Srekor was predicted to flood.

Homes are flooded by the testing of the Sesan II dam in Stung Treng’s Srekor village on Friday. (Adhoc)

Yesterday, however, the river had receded slightly, Mr. Kong said, and he expected Srekor villagers to return home if the waters continued to retreat. Kbal Romeas was still dry, he added.

In case of severe flooding, “we have prepared a ferry in Srekor village in the last few days,” he said. Officials “are staying on the ferry, prepared to evacuate people.”

But authorities allegedly sent to the two villages for emergency evacuation were instead intimidating villagers in an effort to convince them to move to the resettlement sites, said Hou Sam Ol, provincial coordinator for rights group Adhoc.

“I met some people in Srekor village two days ago and they told our Adhoc officials that the authorities are pressuring them and forcing them to move,” he said.

Mr. Kong denied the accusation, however, saying that the more than 30 military police deployed to Srekor and an additional 20 military police and police sent to Kbal Romeas “just want to give them protection.”

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