Chinese Investments in Cambodia Ignore Environment Queries

March 29th, 2013 , The Irrawaddy Magazine

China’s expanding investment portfolio in Cambodia has brought into sharper focus the darker side of the Asian giant’s “development projects” in the impoverished Southeast Asian nation.

And it is in the southwestern corner of Cambodia—known for its rich biodiversity, forest covered hills and bubbling rivers—where this Chinese economic footprint is leaving a defining mark. A plan to build a 400 km-long railway line through this rugged green terrain is the most recent Chinese addition to growing list that has alarmed Cambodian environmentalists. …

Environment Minister Mok Mareth reportedly told the Cambodia Daily newspaper in an interview at the time that the paperwork had not included an environment impact assessment (EIA).

The same publication had also got Transport Minister Tram Iv Tek to affirm in an interview that he was in the dark about the details of this massive investment.

It confirms a pattern that is disturbingly familiar to environmentalists who have been monitoring much longer “development” projects: the way Chinese companies are building large hydropower projects in the same southwestern corner targeted for the new railway line. …

China’s hydropower projects, now estimated to be over $1.6 billion in investments, are aiming to generate 915 megawatts of power in a country that suffers from an energy deficit. Only a quarter of the country’s 14.5 million population has access to power from the national grid. …

Marwaan Macan-Markar

EDC promises more power

March 29th, 2013 , The Phnom Penh Post

The recent power shortages have left residents of Phnom Penh out in the heat and dark, but amidst their mounting frustration, state-owned energy supplier Electricite du Cambodge (EDC) has announced it will be purchasing more power from Thailand to address the shortfall.

Keo Rattanak, director-general of the EDC, said in a company notice that the EDC had already purchased an additional 15 megawatts (MW) that would go toward addressing the power cuts along National Road 4.

He added that in the next two to three days, the company would purchase an additional 10 MW and a further 10 MW before the Khmer New Year holidays in April. …

Ty Thany, executive director at the Electricity Authority of Cambodia, said the measure could lead to higher energy prices since “Thailand and Vietnam, they sell us power, but want to sell it at a high price.”

San Vibol, an energy researcher at the Royal University of Phnom Penh, feels the government should instead develop an energy policy encouraging efficiency and renewability. …

Khouth Sophak Chakrya and Danson Cheong

EdC Appeals For Public to Unplug In Power Crisis

March 29th, 2013 , The Cambodia Daily

Cambodia’s national electricity provider yesterday appealed to the public to unplug from the national energy supply in an effort to alleviate chronic seasonal power shortages that are causing blackouts across Phnom Penh and the rest of the country.

Eletricite du Cambodge (EdC) published an announcement asking people with back-up generators- most likely businesses- to use their own power supplies so that electricity could be freed up for the rest of the population. …

Last week, the Edc said that the 190-megawatt Kamchay dam in Kampot province- Cambodia’s only large-scale online hydropower dam- was operating at only 10 percent capacity due to a lack of water, which was a significant cause of the blackouts. …

Cambodia’s steady economic growth has caused a spike in demand, and electricity shortages have been compounded, according to the announcement, by a shortfall in the amount of energy Vietnam had promised to sell to Cambodia.

“Of the 250 Megawatts promised to us by Vietnam, only 170 megawatts were made available due to Vietnam’s own shortages,” the statement says.

Any demands the EdC is making on the public to switch off power are short-term, it said, as a new coal-fired power plant in Preah Sihanouk province is planned to go online in June, while the rainy season will refill hydropower capacity. …

In the meantime, the EdC said it is taking its own steps, including increasing the operating times of the Kamchay dam and Kompong Speu’s Kirirom dam. It will purchase more electricity in the next few days from Thailand.

“We are getting 15 megawatts from Thailand to supply Phnom Penh,” the announcement says, adding that it hoped in the next week to buy another 10-megawatts from neighboring countries, and to add a further 10-megawatts before Khmer News Year in April. …

Phorn Bhopa and Simon Hernderson, P.1

Operations commence at 18MW Kirirom III hydro power plant in Cambodia

February 26th, 2013 , Energy Business Review

The Cambodian government has commenced operations at the 18MW Kirirom III hydro power plant in the southwestern part of the country.

The facility will produce 78 million KWh of electricity a year and help the country reduce its power shortage crisis and dependence on oil-fueled electricity. …

Electricity from the hydro plant is sold to state-owned firm Electricity of Cambodia for a cost of 7.91 cents per KWh. …

The Kirirom III dam is the 3rd Chinese hydroelectric investment that has begun operations in Cambodia following the 193MW Kamchay plant in Kampot province and the 12MW Kirirom I facility in Kampong Speu province. …

EBR Staff

Hun Sen says Hydropower Is the Key to Stable Electricity Prices

February 25th, 2013 , The Cambodia Daily

Cambodia’s focus on hydropower will reduce its independence on oil and ensure nationwide access to electricity at a stable price, Prime Minister Hun Sen said in a speech Saturday during the inauguration of a $47.1 million hydropower dam in Koh Kong province. …

However environmental groups have said the government’s focus on hydropower is misguided, as information on the likely environmental and social impacts of dam projects is sorely lacking, particularly the consequences for the countries fisheries. …

Mr. Hun Sen also said that Cambodia currently obtains more than 200 megawatts of electricity from its hydroelectric dams: 190 megawatts from the Kamchay dam in Kampot province, 18 megawatts from the Kirrirom II dam in Koh Kong and another 12 from the Kirrirom I dam in Kompong Speu province.

But in the coming years, Mr. Hun Sen said, additional hydroelectric dams will produce hundreds more megawatts for domestic consumption. …

Neou Vannarin, P.19

Government Has 13 Payment Guarantees for Energy Projects

February 24th, 2013 , The Cambodia Daily

A CPP lawmaker said yesterday the government has signed 13 payment guarantees to companies constructing coal-fired power plants and hydropower dams in the country, a move that an Asian Development Bank (ADB) official reiterated was risky for the country’s fiscal future.

CPP lawmaker Cheam Yeap said the most recent payment guarantee approved by the National Assembly last Friday on the $781 million Lower Sesan 2 dam project in Stung Treng province is typical when any major company makes an investment in an energy project. …

“It is the government’s obligation to do a guaranteed payment for investment companies whenever Electricite du Cambodge [EdC] [might] miss a payment or don’t pay the bill,” Mr. Yeap said. …

Kuch Naren and Dene-Hern Chen

Corporate: China powers its way through Cambodia

February 19th, 2013 ,

In the hilly wilderness across southwestern Cambodia, the foundations of the country’s strengthening bonds with China are taking root. It is there that large dams supported by Chinese money are being built to literally bring the impoverished Southeast Asian nation out of darkness.

The largest of them so far, the US$280 million (RM865.2 million) Kamchay Dam in Kampot province, came to life a year ago, helping to brighten the nights in Phnom Penh. It is one of five dams backed by Chinese investments aimed at easing the electricity deficit in the country of 14.9 million people â [sic] ” where only a quarter of the population has access to power from the national grid.

The howls of protests from villagers and green groups have not deterred China’s dam builders, which have committed a total investment of US$1.6 billion to produce an estimated 915mw of power by harnessing the untamed rivers that gush down that remote terrain. The largest symbol of this Cambodian-Chinese alliance is the 338mw Russei Chrum Krom hydropower project, which is being built at a cost of US$500 million. …

Marwaan Macan

China is top dam builder, going where others won’t

December 19th, 2012 , The Bellingham Herald

Up a sweeping jungle valley in a remote corner of Cambodia, Chinese engineers and workers are raising a 100-meter- (330-foot-) high dam over the protests of villagers and activists. Only Chinese companies are willing to tame the Tatay and other rivers of Koh Kong province, one of Southeast Asia’s last great wilderness areas. …

In energy-starved Cambodia, trade with China has risen to 19 percent of GDP from 10 percent five years ago, according to an Associated Press analysis of International Monetary Fund data.The year-old $280 million Kamchay Dam in Cambodia’s Kampot province was the largest ever foreign investment when approved as well as a political flag-carrier for Beijing. It has been hailed by both governments as a “symbol of close Chinese-Cambodian ties.”

Cambodia’s electricity demand grew more than 16 percent a year from 2002 to 2011, with shortfalls largely met through costly oil imports, said Bun Narith, a deputy director general in the Ministry of Industry, Mines and Energy. Only 14 percent of rural homes have electricity, one of the lowest levels in Southeast Asia. …

Son Chhay, one of the few opposition members in Parliament, said that Chinese-Cambodian dam contracts are simply geared to making profits for the parties involved rather than generating low-cost electricity for the country. “The Chinese have a funny way of doing deals in Cambodia. Construction costs are inflated by some 300 percent, and the profits shared,” Son Chhay said. The Cambodian government declined to comment on his claims. …

Illegal loggers ring the site, having all but wiped out stands of rosewood, the highly prized hardwood smuggled to China’s furniture makers. …

Denis D. Gray and Elaine Kurtenbach

Government Defends Chinese Dams

December 7th, 2012 , The Cambodia Daily

Following a dam breach in Pursat province, ruling CPP lawmakers yesterday defended the government’s primary plan to tackle its energy crisis by contracting Chinese companies to build hydropower dams on the country’s rivers.

A section of concrete tunnel at the Stung Atai dam in Pursat province broke away on Saturday, seriously injuring four Cambodian workers and reportedly washing away three more. The three workers were still missing yesterday, said Puth Bunchhoeun, military police commander in Veal Veng district, where the dam is located. …

Eang Mengleng and Simon Lewis, P.1

Sesan Dam Decision Questioned

November 14th, 2012 , Radio Free Asia

Cambodia has decided to go ahead with the construction of a dam on a Mekong tributary, but conservation groups are concerned that not enough study has been done on the hydropower project’s environmental consequences.

Construction on the 400 megawatt Lower Sesan 2 dam in northwestern Cambodia’s Stung Treng province is set to begin in 2014, after the project received a stamp of approval from the country’s cabinet on Nov. 2.

A statement issued by the Council of Ministers said the decision came after eight years of research into the possible environmental and social consequences of the U.S. $800 million project to be undertaken by a Cambodia-China-Vietnam joint venture.

But green groups question the research findings, saying the studies have not been thorough. …


China to back Kampot power plant

June 19th, 2012 , The Phnom Penh Post

An unnamed Chinese investor will put nearly US$400 million into a 300-megawatt coal-powered plant in Kampot province, officials said yesterday.

The plant, slated for a November groundbreaking, will provide power for the Kampot Special Economic Zone, the nearby Prey Nob oil refinery in Preah Sihanouk province and rice mills after a 30-month construction period, said Vinh Huor, president of Kampot Port.
He refused to name the Chinese party that planned to invest. China – or at least investment dollars from several of its state owned firms – has been instrumental in funding power facilities in Cambodia.

In December, Sinohydro Corp completed the Kamchay hydropower dam, the country’s first large-scale power facility. A Chinese company is also behind a coal-fired plant near Sinhanoukville.

Last week, Cambodia approved a $102 million loan from China for the construction of a new dam in Battambang province.

“This is important and we want such investment,” said Kampot Provincial Governor Khoy Khunhour. “China completed the Kamchay hydropower dam project nearly one year sooner than expected, even as the world faced the economic crisis in 2008. Other investment in Kampot left but China did not go anywhere. What China says, it does.”

Rann Reuy, P. 7

Investigation Into Dam Beatings Ceases, Police Say

April 10th, 2012 , The Cambodia Daily

Police in Kampot province say they cannot pursue a criminal case against 10 Chinese supervisors at the Kamchay dam worksite for severely beating four Cambodian workers, because the Cambodian men are not cooperating with the investigation after receiving monetary compensation from the Sinohydro company. …

Saing Soenthrith, P. 19

Chinese Supervisors Allegedly Beat Workers

April 9th, 2012 , The Cambodia Daily

Four workers at the Chinese-built Kamchay Dam in Kampot province were severely beaten by their Chinese supervisors on Saturday as punishment for allegedly stealing electrical wires, police said yesterday.

The workers were chased by the supervisors on motorcycles, then beaten with wooden sticks and metal bars in retaliation for allegedly stealing 40 meters of electrical wire the night before, said Prumb Vesna, police chief of Chhuk district, where the dam worksite is located. …

Saing Soenthrith with additional reporting by Kate Bartlett, P. 18

Phnom Penh Residents Asked To Reduce Electricity Usage

March 30th, 2012 , The Cambodia Daily

State-run Electricite du Cambodge (EdC), the main provider of electricity in the country, has appealed to residents of Phnom Penh to reduce electricity use due to a power shortage, an EdC official said yesterday.

The company is only able to produce 70 percent of the city’s electricity demand, as serious water shortfalls have caused the Kirirom hydropower dam in Kompong Speu to stop working and significantly reduced power production at Kampot’s Kamchay dam, said the official, who requested anonymity because he was not authorized to speak to the media. …

Hul Reaksmey, P.19

Nation’s largest hydropower dam to open

December 7th, 2011 , The Cambodia Daily

Prime Minister Hun Sen will officially open the Chinese-made Kamchay dam in Kampot province today, the largest hydropower dam to date to operate in Cambodia and capable of supplying an extra 193.2 megawatts of energy.

Environmental and human rights groups yesterday criticized the dam’s builder and the government for not releasing the dam’s environmental or social impact assessments prior to the project being approved.

The Kamchay dam, which was built by the Chinese company Sinohydro, has been praised by Mr Hun Sen for its role in reducing electricity prices and supplying the growing demand for power in Phnom Penh. Its first phase was completed in December 2009, and the dam will provide electricity to Phnom Penh, Kampot and Preah Sihanouk provinces…

Neou Vannarin and Dene-Hern Chen, p.24