29 July 2014

Chinese backed Cheay Areng dam project in Cambodia threatening local communities

Southeast Asia is developing at a very aggressive rate. This includes lots of new dam projects. As of 2010, a Chinese firm completed an impact survey in the Southwest region of Cambodia to construct the Cheay Areng dam, according to Hydroworld.com. This project was slated for completion in 2015, but local villagers, along with monks from the nation's capital, Phenom Penh, are working to prevent Chinese developers from progressing with the project by protesting. Today's New York Times featured a 6 minute video that captures the story, mostly through imagery, and some from the mouths of the people themselves.

This project threatens people and protected forest called the Central Cardamom Protected Forest, some 10,000 hectares of forest slated to be submerged by flood under the storage reservoir. 

There are myriad issues related to this dam project - why on earth would Cambodia and/or their Chinese partners select a dam site in a protected area where traditional communities reside??? - there are Siamese crocodiles slated for relocation, and apparently the current botched efforts to move them, excluding village participation. This is important because the crocodiles are guardian spirits and the forest is full of ancestor protection spirits, and the land is ancestral land. It becomes very difficult for local people to convince their spirits to move when there is relocation like this. 

Certainly there are elements of culture and resources and resource access lost completely due to dam flooding. However, perhaps international coverage, awareness, and local protest will help bring everyone to the table to look for new solutions. A story about the valley and its natural and cultural treasures is featured on a site called AsiaLIFE, an online tourism guide to Cambodia, Thailand, and Vietnam (why no Laos???).

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