Posted by: r.m. | September 29, 2008

damn the dam

To dam or not to dam?  In this particular case, to dam means to destroy needed ecosystems and further endanger more than 30 species of already endangered animals and displace hundreds of indigenous peoples.

“The Areng dam is unnecessary and surplus to requirements,” said Jenny Daltry, a senior conservation biologist with FFI. “Hundreds of households of an indigenous people, the Khmer Daeum, will be displaced and have to move. These are people who have been there for hundreds of years and who really do live in harmony with nature and have set up their own protected areas in the forest, and six villages of them will go, and possibly seven. In wildlife terms, it will be a disaster. The crocodiles, which represent at least a fifth of the world’s population in the wild, will disappear and there will be catastrophic damage to other wildlife.”

Crocodiles are vital for maintaining healthy wetlands: they control predatory fishes and by digging out channels, they ensure a constant water supply even through the dry season. Siamese crocodiles are also sacred to a number of ethnic minorities in Southeast Asia. They are not man-eaters, but prefer to feed on smaller prey, especially snakes, fish and rats.

To add salt to the wound – the people to be directly impacted were not even consulted.

With no prior consultation, the first villagers knew of the project was when Chinese engineers turned up this year to start working on feasibility studies – details of which CSG and the Government are reluctant to discuss.

Environmentalists who have conducted their own studies say the dam’s lake will cover 110 square kilometres and displace thousands of Indigenous people in nine villages.

More than 200 animal species, including elephants, sun bears, leopards and the endangered Siamese crocodile would be affected upstream, Sam Chanthy said, head of the NGO Forum, a foreign-funded non-governmental organisation in Phnom Penh. Downstream, the delicate ecosystem of the flooded forest, home to some of the world’s rarest turtle species as well as hundreds of types of migratory fish, would also be hit by disruptions to water flow, he said. “It won’t take long for these invaluable assets to disappear when the dam is built,” Conservation International spokesperson Eng Polo said.”



  1. This is another sad case of a human project where nature pays the highest price.
    What really dazzles me is that if “The Areng dam is unnecessary and surplus to requirements” as Jenny Daltry said, why do the authorities insist on building it?
    Is it another case of corruption and personal interest taking the upper hand on common sense?

    Unfortunately, as it’s often the case, the richest countries in terms of natural habitats, virgin forests and rare species are also the poorest on the globe. Thus environmental issues which might seem to us as primordial are merely secondary for them.
    But do Europeans or Americans have the right to criticize them? Haven’t they destroyed large portions of what used to be forests in Europe and in America with no ecological worries whatsoever when they were building their countries? And aren’t they till today harming the environment with their gas emissions and industrial trend?
    That’s why all what can the scientific community do is to advise the developing countries and offer them their knowledge and expertise.

  2. Again, money trumps indigenous peoples and the environment. Dams are a twentieth century technology – we have other ways of generating power that are more environmentally friendly and do not destroy indigenous ways of life.

  3. To be quite honest, I had no idea there could be humans that cruel or selfish. Why is the government agreeing to build a dam if “The Areng dam is unnecessary and surplus to requirements” as Jenny Daltry said?
    To be frank, I don’t know much about ecology and I didn’t know that humans could have such a dangerous impact on nature. I must admit, after reading this article, my eyes have been opened to the selfish,careless ways of humans.

    For example, how could a government not care about displacing so many innocent families without even asking for their consent? What shocks me even more is how a dam can affect so many different species, which shows I have a lot to learn about ecology and I’m certainly looking forward to it.

    I really hope something can be done to protect the wildlife and the people affected by this dam.

  4. i don’t like the fact that the building of the dam is going to have such a negative impact on the environment and the people living in it. i would like to agree with Marc about the fact that the developped countries do not get to ride their high horses in this case. the question is would ask here is whether Jenny Daltry takes into account the fact that Cambodia is a very poor country with ramping enery needs, so a dam is always better than “off-shore drilling” touted by the republican presidential candidate in the U.S.A, and that with some efforts by environmental NGOs, the environmental impact could be forced into consideration by the authorities, and best case scenario, minimized to a point where it is greatly outweighed by the benefits of such projects. one needs not to forget that Cambodia is on the forefront of the countries hit by climate change -CNN recently aired a documentary labelling it the Drowning country- that was and still is mainly fuelled by developped and rich countries’ greedy consumerism. They tend to blatantly overlook or discard ecological considerations when these interferes with their ‘business’ so to speak, but suddenly become fervant militants of the cause when they have nothing to lose, or heaven forbid, for the USA, that China might benefit from it -they are after all building it for the Cambodian!-

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