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.”