Cambodia’s biggest hydropower dam now producing electricity

PHNOM PENH, Cambodia (AP) – Cambodia’s largest hydropower project officially began producing electricity yesterday as the country tries to increase its energy capacity to reduce energy imports and help jump-start industrial expansion.

Cambodian Prime Minister Hun Sen inaugurated the 400-megawatt Lower Sesan II hydropower dam in the northeastern province of Stung Treng. The project, constructed on a build-operate-transfer basis, will boost the country’s production of electricity by 20 per cent, according to the Ministry of Mines and Energy.

It was built over four years at a cost of nearly USD800 million and is a joint venture of China’s Hydrolancang International Energy, which has a 51 per cent stake, Cambodia’s Royal Group with 39 per cent and Vietnam’s EVN International with 10 per cent. The dam is expected to bring in almost USD30 million in tax revenue yearly. Ownership will be handed over to the government after 40 years.

Opponents said the dam will damage the biodiversity of two tributaries of the Mekong River and devastate the livelihoods and homes of thousands of people. As many as 100,000 people could lose the ability to catch fish.

The dam is the seventh commercial-scale hydropower dam in Cambodia, bringing hydropower production to 1,328 megawatts.

Hydropower supplies 45 per cent of Cambodia’s electricity consumption, followed by 35 per cent from coal-fired power plants and about five per cent from petroleum and alternative energy.

A general view of the Cambodia’s 400 megawatt Lower Sesan 2 hydroelectric dam during the inauguration in Stung Treng province yesterday. Cambodian premier Hun Sen yesterday opened the largest dam in the country, swatting away warnings about the disastrous impact it could have on the environment and local livelihoods. – AFP