The Fooding of Sesan

The Fooding of Sesan

The Mekong river is the twelfth longest river in the world. Originating from the Tibetan Plateau it runs through China’s Yunnan Province, Myanmar, Laos, Thailand, Cambodia, and Vietnam. It provides a stable trade route between China and Southeast Asia whilst providing a livelihood for millions of people.

The Lower Sesan II dam is a joint venture between Chinese SOE Hydrolancang and Cambodia’s Royal Group. The 400 MW dam forms a part of China’s Belt and Road international development initiative. It is located at the confluence of the Sesan and Srepok tributary rivers in Stung Treng Province, Cambodia.

Approximately five thousand people, many of whom are ethnic minorities have been forcibly evicted to make way for the Season dam’s 33,560 hectare reservoir. The project will forever alter the livelihoods and cultures of tens of thousands of people living along the Sesan and Srepok rivers, whose lives and traditions are closely linked to the river system and its rich natural resources.

Accompanying members of the BWINT union and Cambodian NGO 3SNP we visited a number of communities who are being forcefully evicted or whose lives are otherwise affected by the dam’s construction. Despite the Season II dam now being complete we hope their stories will help future communities who maybe become threatened to understand the implications of hydropower projects as development along the Mekong continues to be expanded.

We collected video interviews and used a drone to survey both the dam and affected villages. We also were able to use the drone with guidance from the local community to locate and report evidence of illegal logging in the area. I had wished to 3D map the villages in order to preserve their stories digitally unfortunately resources did not permit completion, with a larger team it would of been possible to construct a digital memori morti for these lost ethnic communities.

The Lower Sesan II dam is a joint venture between Chinese SOE Hydrolancang and Cambodia’s Royal Group. The 400 MW dam forms part of China’s Belt and Road international development initiative.

Pictured in Kbal Romeas village before the dam was completed. Local residents refused to be removed. Their village and lands are now flooded.

The Lower Sesan II dam is located near the confluence of the Sesan and Srepok rivers in Stung Treng Province, Cambodia. 33,560 hectares of forest were cleared to make way for its reservoir.

Thai Phai believes Krabei Chrun village will flood when the dam is finished, as it always floods ever year. He fears “the community will not survive without the river”. Since the dam has become operational the waters have risen and flooded their villages enveloping their homes and farmlands. About ten thousand people have been affected by the Sesan II dam. Most of them are from ethnic minorities that have lived along the river for generations.

In Kbal Romeas village the remnants of homes belonging to families who took the compensation are relacimed by the jungle.

Sok Veanis a farmer who has lived in Krabei Chrun village since 1979. During the inital impact assement Krabei Churn village was listed as being affected, however subsequently it has been classified as not affected. Due to the proximity to the dam site the villagers are very concened about flooding caused by the daming of the river.

Wild mushroom collected from the forest are prepared for consumption. Like all the villages along the Sesan and Sepok rivers, the villagers of Krabei Chrun rely on the rivers and forest to supply their food and shelter.

A dusty unsealed highway typical of Cambodia’s rural infrastructure. Without international development capital these dusty highways continue to negatively impact people’s health and safety. This vital highway connects the ethnic villages along the Sesan river to Banlung, the market town and regional capital of Ratanakiri Province.

Kachock women work in the fields during the rice harvest. The Kachock are an ethnic group that live on lands that run along the banks of the Sesan river. The river and forest are not only important for food, water and materials, they are also essential to the Kachock’s Animism religion.

Young Kachock men load motorboats with cut Teak for transportation down river for sale. The popularity of Teak furniture means in the western world the wood is worth six times the price of Pine and twice that of Mahogany.

This paper grants Sorn So Korn free medical care as she is in poverty. She says “I trust the govenment, we are poor people and despite the correct paperwork the doctor still asks for money to access the health care”. For her the river is equal to her life, without the river no fish, no fish, no life.

A child of Chinese ethnicity studies in a mixed classroom composed of two year groups. There are Sixteen ethnic groups in Cambodia’s Ratanakiri and Stung Treng provinces that live numerous villages along the Sesan river.

In Sre Kor village forty three famlies have rejected the compensation and resettlement. “The river is life” they tell us, “rather  we die here than leave our land and resorces”.

The Lower Sesan II Dam threatens the vitality and biodiversity of the Sesan and Srepok two of the Mekong River’s most significant tributaries.

Due to heavy private security union activists are forced to access the Lower Sesan II Dam site by fishing boat. They speak with local workers about their living and working conditions.