Interview: "HRW wants us to continue using kerosene-burning lamps in the 21st century": Cambodian official

Source: Xinhua| 2021-08-16 17:47:24|Editor: huaxia
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PHNOM PENH, Aug. 16 (Xinhua) -- Extremist human rights groups such as the Human Rights Watch (HRW) probably wanted Cambodian people to continue using kerosene-burning lamps in the 21st century, secretary of state and spokesman of Cambodia's Environment Ministry Neth Pheaktra said on Monday.

Refuting a recent report made by the New York-based human rights group about the Lower Sesan II Hydropower Station, Pheaktra said during an interview with Xinhua that the report was "false" and "politically motivated."

Situated in Sesan district of Stung Treng Province in northeastern Cambodia, the project is a joint venture among China's Huaneng Hydrolancang International Energy holding 51 percent of the stake, Cambodia's Royal Group owning 39 percent, and Vietnamese EVN International Joint Stock Company possessing 10 percent.

"The description in the HRW's report about the Lower Sesan II Hydropower Station project is just part of a campaign to spread false, slanderous and inflated information against the truth and to commit sabotage against Cambodia's development," he said, adding that the report was motivated by geopolitical considerations.

The spokesman said the project, which was completed in 2018, has benefited Cambodia's national economy and its people because it is empowering the Southeast Asian nation's socio-economic development with the capacity of 400 megawatts of clean renewable energy.

"This project is essential to ensure Cambodia's energy security and it has been providing tremendous benefit to the whole Cambodia and its people," he said. "This is what Cambodian people want, but extremist human rights groups such as the Human Right Watch probably want Cambodian people to continue using kerosene-burning lamps in the 21st century."

The Lower Sesan II Hydropower Station provided 1.59 billion kilowatt-hours of electricity in 2020, accounting for 18.69 percent of the total generated in Cambodia. In addition to supplying reliable and cheaper energy, it brought a lot of advantages to Cambodia through creating jobs, generating tax revenue, reducing reliance on oil-fueled power plants, and alleviating poverty.

The spokesman called on the HRW to work only on human rights, not to serve the geopolitical interest of any country.

Speaking of helping residents during the construction, Pheaktra said the government had already provided 7,086.8 hectares of land to the people affected by the dam, and built 118 concrete houses and 471 wooden houses along with 63 reservoirs and 181 wells for them.

Moreover, he said the project had constructed 12 schools and 12 kindergartens, two commune halls, three pagodas, two police stations and one military police station to serve those affected communities.

Driving along National Road No. 78 in Sesan district of Stung Treng Province, one will see the orderly rows of new houses with red walls and blue roofs in the new Kbal Romeas village that the project had built for resettled villagers. Local residents said the new village has good roads, drainage system, clean water, low-priced electricity, school and health center, unlike the old Kbal Romeas village 70 km away that had none of these.

"Relocation of affected families is never easy, but the government has carefully considered the costs and benefits to its people for all of its construction projects and attempts to reduce their impacts through environmental and social impact assessment tools that have clear solutions and measures," Pheaktra said.

"The project has paid high attention not only to the affected people, but also to environmental protection by complying with all requirements in the Environmental Impact Assessment (EIA) paper," he added.

According to the environmental impact assessment of the project, there are 34 kinds of long-distance migratory fish in the area. In order to meet the needs of these migratory fish and maintain their diversity in the area, the company built a fishway that had been put into use since the end of 2017.

The 2,900-meter-long fishway, built like a natural river to fit into the surrounding environment, serves as the way the fish come home.

Local authorities also took water samples for tests, and the spokesman said the water quality of the Sesan River's upstream and downstream of the dam is good and has not changed due to the dam's presence. Enditem

KEY WORDS: Cambodia,HRW,Hydropower Station,INTERVIEW