Cambodia gov't approves $1 billion Chinese dams

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PHNOM PENH (XFN-ASIA) – The Cambodian government today approved two large hydropower dams to be built with more than 1 bln usd dollars in funding from Chinese companies.

The new projects, Stung Tatay dam and Stung Russey Chrum Krom dam in the southwestern province of Koh Kong, were approved during a cabinet meeting presided over by Prime Minister Hun Sen, according to a government statement.

The statement said the dams will ensure Cambodia’s energy supply at reasonable prices, which is ‘a necessary key to push for economic growth and other development.’

China National Heavy Machinery Corporation (CNHMC) will spend 540 mln usd to build Stung Tatay, Cambodian council of ministers official Seng Savorn told Agence France-Presse. The dam will generate 246 megawatts (MW) of power.

China’s Michelle Corporation will spend 495.7 mln usd to build Stung Russey Chrum Krom dam, which will generate 338 MW of electricity, he added.

Construction of both dams will begin this year, with Stung Tatay due to be completed in 2014 and Stung Russey Chrum Krom in 2015, he said.

The Southeast Asian country will open nine other dams of various sizes between 2010 and 2019 to generate 1,942 MW of power, according to a government report to parliament obtained by AFP last month.

The US-based International Rivers Network last year said that two of those dams, also funded by China, threatened to flood huge swathes of Cambodia’s protected forests.

Only 20 pct of Cambodian households currently have access to electricity.

Spiralling utility prices, driven by the lack of supply, are a major obstacle to attracting foreign investment, and the government has struggled to find a way to bring down the cost of power.

The government also plans to build nine coal-powered plants between 2011 and 2020, the report to parliament said.