‘China-funded dam in Cambodia a rights disaster’, rights group claims

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Human Rights Watch says construction of dam ‘washed away livelihoods of indigenous, ethnic minority communities’

ANKARA (AA) – A Chinese-funded hydroelectric dam in northeastern Cambodia is “a rights disaster” as it undermined the lives and livelihoods of thousands of indigenous and ethnic minority people, a rights watchdog said on Tuesday.

The Human Rights Watch (HRW), in its latest 137-page report released Tuesday, said the Lower Sesan 2 dam, one of Asia’s widest dams, “flooded large areas” upstream of the confluence of the Sesan and Srepok Rivers, two tributaries of the Mekong River.

“The Lower Sesan 2 dam washed away the livelihoods of indigenous and ethnic minority communities who previously lived communally and mostly self-sufficiently from fishing, forest-gathering, and agriculture,” said John Sifton, Asia advocacy director.

The construction of the dam was completed in 2018 and is part of China’s Belt and Road Initiative.

“Cambodian authorities need to urgently revisit this project’s compensation, resettlement, and livelihood-restoration methods, and ensure that future projects don’t feature similar abuses.”

The report “Underwater: Human Rights Impacts of a China Belt and Road Project in Cambodia” documents economic, social, and cultural rights “violations” of nearly 5,000 people whose families had lived in the area for generations and were displaced by the dam.

Chinese state-owned electricity generation company – China Huaneng Group – built and operates the dam while Cambodia’s Royal Group and Vietnam’s state-owned electricity company, EVN, hold minor stakes in it.

The rights body alleged many locals were “coerced into accepting inadequate compensation for lost property and income, provided with poor housing and services at resettlement sites, and given no training or assistance to secure new livelihoods.”

The report said the dam had also a major impact on fishing income.

“Now fish are so scarce,” said one man living near the dam. “We used to get fish for eating and selling, but [now] it has completely decreased. We sometimes don’t even have enough to eat.”

“Resettled villagers said their agricultural yields also decreased due to the less fertile, more rocky soil at resettlement sites, and lost income from fruit and nut trees in their old villages,” it added.

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