Mekong Utility Watch

Damming the Se San

TERRA

April 1, 1999

Case Studies and appendices

Proposed dams on the Se San River

The Se San River, that flows through Vietnam’s Central highlands, then into Cambodia’s Rattanakiri and Stung Treng provinces, is an important Mekong tributary and habitat for migrating fish that enter the Se San system for feeding and spawning. Together the Se San, the Sre Pok, the largest tributary of the Se San, and the Se Kong River contribute 16.7 percent of the flow at the downstream town of Kratie.

In Rattanakiri, the Se San is a large lowland river with deep-water areas and pockets of seasonally inundated forests. Most of the 18, 000 people living along the river [1] in Cambodia eat fish they catch for home consumption. Many people also catch fish to sell.

In Vietnam, the river flows through mountains that are home to mostly Jarai and Bahnar peoples. Until recently these are was the site of some of the largest intact areas of forest in Vietnam. [2] However, in the last 2 decades these forests have suffered considerable damage at the hands of outsiders, from war, logging, cash crop farming and migration of Vietnamese into the area. Now dams threaten this environment and the Jarai and Bahnar who live there.

Since the 1950’s this river has been a key target for hydropower development. Even during the war, the Mekong Committee (precursor to the Mekong River Commission) continued work on the Yali Falls hydropower project. Work was halted after two field engineers were shot in 1963. The Asian Development Bank (ADB) is now the primary institution promoting hydropower in the region and notes the “Se San River . . . is recognised as one of the top three rivers in Vietnam in terms of hydropower potential.”

Several plans are currently underway to develop a cascade of dams on the Se San River. One dam has been constructed already – the 720 megawatt (MW) Yali Falls hydropower project in Gia Lai Province, Vietnam. Another project, the 260 MW Se San 3, which is proposed to be built downstream of Yali in Vietnam, is being prepared for commissioning in 2000 by the ADB.

Developers plan to build more dams after the construction of Se San 3. Almost 20 projects have been studied in the Se San River Basin and it is expected that between four and eight of these projects would be constructed to form a cascade.

 

Dam plans for the Se San

The current plans to build a cascade of dams on the Se San follow the production of millions of dollars worth of studies of the hydropower potential of this river.

The Se Kong Se San, Nam Theun River Basins Hydropower Study (SKSSNT Study) is the most recently completed study, and was conducted by Halcrow from 1997 to 1999 for the Asian Development Bank (ADB) at a cost of US$ 2.5 million. According to the SKSSNT Study’s draft final report the development plan for the Se San River includes the construction of Se San 3 in 2006 [3], Se San 4 (2012), Lower Se San 2 (2020) and Thoung Kontum (2021). [See Appendix 2]. The Review of the (Vietnam) Master Plan for the Se San River (SWECO, 1998) that was conducted at the same time as the ADB’s SKSSNT Study indicate different priorities. The Masterplan, which was funded by Swedish aid agency SIDA, proposes a cascade of dams on the Se San River following the development of the Yali Hydropower Project. The Masterplan proposes the cascade be built in the following order: Se San 4A (255 MW), Se San 3 (295 MW), Pleikrong Low (110 MW) followed by Thoung Kontum (212 MW) or Dak Ne A.

The latest plan, now underway, is the US $3.24 million National Hydropower Plan Study (NHP) for Vietnam. This plan is being carried out by consultants Stakraft, Norplan and SWECO, with funding from Norwegian and Swedish aid agencies, NORAD and SIDA. The NHP will prioritise hydropower development in the Se San, Da, Lo Gam and Dong Nai river basins.

Further develoment of hydropower projects on the Se San, after Yali Falls, has already begun. In February 1999 SWECO completed a feasibility study on the proposed Se San 3 hydropower project, funded by SIDA. In July 1999, the ADB commissioned a Project Preparatory Technical Assistance (TAR: VIE 31362, July 1999) to prepare Se San 3 for construction by the end of 2000. [3] According to the SKSSNT Study, Halcrow is also conducting new studies for Dak E Meule Upper, Dak E Meule Mid, Houay Lampan Gnai, Lower Se San 2, Lower Se San 3, Prek Liang 1 and Prek Liang 2. The proposed Dak Bla, Plei Krong, Thoung Kontum and Se San 4 are being studied to ‘recost the existing designs’.

The final outcome of these multiple plans and studies is not certain. However it appears that a hydropower cascade including some combination of several of the above projects is strongly supported by developers and funding agencies, including the ADB.

The most likely projects on the Se San include the following (codes refer to studies done, key to codes in notes):

Project Size Location Status
Dak Bla 101 MW

(PIDC 1).

On the Se San River in Vietnam. Several kilometres east of Kontum town Identified as a proposed project by PIDC1 (1990)

Included in the SKSSNT study but was not one of the six priority projects. Currently recosting existing design according to SKSSNT Study

 

Plei Krong

110 MW (SWECO, 1998)

135 MW

(PIDC 1,1993)

Reservoir area 80km2 (Nor-consult 1994)

On the Krong Poco River, a branch of the Upper Se San River in Vietnam. The proposed site is 3km from the confluence of the Krong Poco and the Dak Bla tributaries Identified as a proposed project by PIDC1 (1990).

Mekong Secretariat produced a project proposal to upgrade the existing feasibility study (Mekong Secretariat 1993) but no funding source was found

Recommended for medium-term development by SWECO (1998)

Currently recosting existing design according to SKSSNT Study

Thoung Kontum 228 MW(SKSSNT Study, 1999)

212 MW (SWECO, 1998)

Reservoir area at FSL 13km2(SKSSNT Study, 1999)

On the Kak Nghi River, an upper tributary if the Se San in Vietnam approximately 40km north east of Kontum town and 15 km north of Kon Plong Subject of study by PIDC1 (1993). It has since been further studied by PIDC1 and SWECO

Recommended as a potential alternative to Dak Ne A by SWECO (1998)

One of six priority projects recommended by SKSSNT Study

Currently recosting existing design according to SKSSNT Study

Se San 3 260 MW

(ADB –

TAR:

VIE31362)

On the Se San mainstream, Vietnam, 20km south of the existing Yali hydropower project Identified as a proposed project by PIDC1, 1990.

Recommended for medium-term development by SWECO (1998)

Included in the SKSSNT study but Se San 3 was not one of the six priority projects

In July 1999, the ADB approved a Project Preparatory Technical Assistance for construction of Se San 3. Project to be commissioned by end of 2000 (TAR:VIE 31362, July 1999)

Se San 4 420 MW (SKSSNT Study, 1999)

Se San 4A

255 MW (SWECO, 1998)

Reservoir area at FSL 60km2(SKSSNT Study, 1999)

On the Se San mainstream in Vietnam, approximately 8km north east of the Vietnam/ Cambodian border and 60km west of the regional capital of Plei Ku Identified as a proposed project by PIDC1, 1990

Subject of study by PIDC1 (1993). It has since been further studied by PIDC1 and SWECO

Recommended for medium-term development by SWECO (1998)

One of six priority projects recommended by SKSSNT Study.

Currently recosting existing design according to SKSSNT Study

Prek

Liang 1

61 MW

(MRC 1995)

On the Prek Liang River, a tributary of the Se San in Cambodia Pre feasibility study conducted by MRC in 1995

New study currently being undertaken by Halcrow according to SKSSNT Study

Project intended for electricity supply to Cambodia

Prek

Liang 2

44 MW

(MRC 1995)

On the Prek Liang River, a tributary of the Se San in Cambodia Pre feasibility study conducted by MRC in 1995

New study currently being undertaken by Halcrow according to SKSSNT Study

Project intended for electricity supply to Cambodia

Lower Se San 2 112 MW

Reservoir areas at FSL 355 km2

On the Se San River 21km upstream of its confluence with the Sre Pok River and 6km upstream of the village of Sre Ko, Cambodia One of six priority projects recommended by SKSSNT Study, however this study also identified that Lower Se San 2 is not economically viable.

New study currently being undertaken by Halcrow according to SKSSNT Study *Project location and design has changed since the interim report of the SKSSNT Study

Studies mentioned:

  • A Feasibility Study of the Se San Basin (1990) by The Power Investigation and Design Company no. 1 (PIDC1)
  • Preliminary Technico-economical Report on the Master Plan for the Se San River (1993) by PIDC1
  • Master Plan (for hydropower development) of the Se San River (1998) prepared by Gov. Vietnam and reviewed by SWECO
  • Se Kong Se San and Nam Theun River Basins Hydropower Study (SKSSNT Study) (1999) by Halcrow

Changing the flows

The construction of a cascade of dams enables a far higher degree of control over a river than can be managed with a single hydropower project as the river must flow past each successive reservoir before water is released further downstream. Likewise, the destruction caused by a hydropower cascade is a magnified version of the destruction caused by single projects.

Before a river is dammed, forests and rainfall regulate the natural water flow. However, after damming a river is subject to the vicissitudes of electricity demand; flowing more evenly throughout the year and turning on and off during the day in response to peak electricity demand times.

A hydropower cascade would also block the flow of silt down the river, altering the river’s chemical balance and reducing the nutrient flow to farming communities downstream who rely on silt laden floods to fertilise their land.

Shifting advice

In SWECO’s feasibility study for the proposed Se San 3 hydropower project SWECO claims that “the proposed projects in the Se San River will, especially during the dry season, have a positive and important impact on the flow in the Mekong River.” [4]

The hydro and irrigation industries have strongly promoted the view that regulating water flows in a river will have a positive impact for livelihoods despite that this claim has been consistently proved false. Experience of the impacts of hydropower projects such as Pak Mun in Thailand and the Theun Hinboun hydropower project in Lao PDR, indicate that altering natural river flows has a devastating impact on the riverine ecosystem and the human societies that have evolved to depend on the natural flow system.

Halcrow’s Se Kong Se San, Nam Theun River Basins Hydropower Study warns that “one of the major unavoidable effects (of extensive hydropower development) might be substantial changes in seasonal flows in the tributaries and even in the main river.” [5]

Halcrow continues on to refute the argument that this could have a positive impact. “Whilst it might be thought that the more water there is in a river the better the fishery would be, this is almost certainly not the case” . . . “Experience at the Pak Mun Dam in Thailand indicates that fisheries both upstream and down suffer severe perturbation immediately, even following the construction of run-of-river schemes. [IEE 4.2.2]

And further, “it seems entirely possible that there will be a cumulative if not synergistic, increase in fishery damage as the number of upstream hydro schemes increases.” [IEE 4.2.2]

SWECO itself has admitted that there is not evidence to support their claim of positive impacts from regulated flows. Less than a year before SWECO’s claim above, that a cascade on the Se San would have positive impacts, SWECO admitted “No study has yet been realized on the impacts of hydropower development related to the changing flow conditions in the lower part of the Se San River in Cambodia.” And continued “some are concerned that the migration up and down the river of many species of fish, especially in Rattanakiri province, Cambodia will be severely impacted.” [SWECO Review of the Masterplan p. 7-19]

While consultants on the payroll of hydro proponents vary in their advice on the impact of changed natural flows, the experience downstream of dams on other rivers in the Mekong indicates that the impact is indeed severe.

Impact on the river and livelihoods

The natural flows of Mekong tributaries are an integral part of the complex Mekong ecosystem. Every year when the rains begin, between May and July, the wet season flood carries with it rich silt from the highlands to replenish the wetlands, flood plains and estuary. As the rivers swell many of the Mekong’s migratory fish also begin the annual migration. Some fish migrate up the Se San from the Mekong to access spawning grounds in the smaller tributaries and streams.

Many fish species retreat from seasonal rivulets and wetlands to larger perennial water bodies when the water recedes at the end of the wet season, between October and December. Other species remain in the wetlands and paddy fields where they can be caught year round. The retreating floods also deposit much of the river’s load of nutrient rich silt on riverbanks and floodplains.

In a river such as the Se San the impact of regulation below a hydro-cascade would be particularly severe. A large number of fish species migrate back and forth from the Mekong mainstream to the upland streams of the Se San to spawn. According to Ian Baird “over 120 fish species have been confirmed to inhabit the Se San River in Rattanakiri” and “it seems likely that between 200-300 species are in fact present.” For the many thousands of people living along the Se San these fish constitute about 70-80 percent of the protein they consume. Many people also catch some fish to sell.

If the Se San is transformed, smoothed and controlled, fish migrations would be disturbed and silt from the uplands would be trapped behind dams and not dispersed in the feeding and spawning grounds of the floodplains. Fish migration past the barriers imposed by the reservoirs and hydro stations would become impossible and the pulses of water coursing the river each time the sluice gates at the hydro stations were opened would flush away fish fry and spawning grounds and erode the river banks.

Meanwhile the stretches of river between each dam would become little more than ‘water passageways’ regulated by the competing demands of upstream and downstream hydro-stations. Fish populations would be blocked from entering these river segments. Endemic (native) fish species, that are adapted to the upland rapids in Vietnam would adjust poorly to living in reservoirs or the highly variable passages of water between dams. Local communities in upland areas are heavily reliant on these native species, as many of these communities do not have cash (or access to markets) in order to purchase replacement protein.

According to local people in Stung Treng Province, Cambodia, the first dam on the Se San River that has been constructed, Yali Falls in Vietnam, has had a dramatic impact on the river in Stung Treng, negatively affecting water quality, flow volumes and timing.

Concerns

Currently the Asian Development Bank and other institutions including the Swedish bilateral aid agency (SIDA) and the Mekong River Commission are planning a series of hydropower projects on the Se San River. These projects raise serious concerns about the rights and concerns of local people living in the areas to be affected. In the case of dams planned for the Se San, many of the people that will be affected live in downstream Cambodia but most of the dams are planned for Vietnam. In addition, there is no certainty that the impact of many dams will be limited to the Se San River. In fact, even consultants working on related studies have warned that serious impacts may occur in the broader Mekong ecological system.

These issues raise several questions that include:

  • Is there adequate knowledge available to know what the expected impacts of a cascade of hydropower project will be on river ecology and local livelihoods in the Se San basin?
  • What information has been given to local people? * Have local people been consulted about the planned projects that will affect them?
  • Has the Government of Cambodia been consulted about projects in Vietnam that will damage Cambodia’s natural resources?
  • What accountability to either local people or national governments is being shown by the Asian Development Bank and the Mekong River Commission who are planning dams that will have impacts outside the country in which they are built?
  • What lessons have been learnt from other large dam projects in the Mekong region and from the experience of forced resettlement?

References

  • ‘Asian Development Bank: Money and Power in the Mekong Region’, Watershed Vol. 2 No. 2 Asian Development Bank website: http://www.adb.org/Work/Projects/Profiles/PPTA
  • Baird, I. A rapid study of fish and fisheries; and livelihoods and natural resources along the Se San River, Oxfam, December, 1995
  • Lang, C. Vietnam: The Yali Falls Dam Project on Social and Environmental Context, 1994
  • Master Plan (for hydropower development) of the Se San River prepared by the Government of Vietnam and reviewed by SWECO International AB (in association with Statkraft Engineering) (SWECO): 1998
  • ‘Party paper highlights delays’, Power In Asia. 26 July 1999
  • ‘Se Kong-Se San and Nam Theun: Too many studies’, Watershed Vol. 3 No. 2
  • ‘Se San 3 hydro project challenges Vietnam’, International Water, Power and Dam Construction, June, 1999
  • Sir William Halcrow & Partners, UK. Se Kong Se San and Nam Theun River Basins Hydropower Study Initial Environmental Examination Report, 1998
  • Sir William Halcrow & Partners, UK. Se Kong Se San and Nam Theun River Basins Hydropower Study Final Report, 1999
  • TERRA briefing paper, Hydropower Projects in Vietnam, December 1996
  • TERRA briefing paper, Update: Mekong Issues/ Cambodia September 1996
  • TERRA briefing paper, Notes on Dams on Mekong Tributaries in Vietnam that Flow into Cambodia, January 6, 1997

Appendix 1: Asian Development Bank dam building

The Se Kong Se San, Nam Theun River Basins Hydropower Study (SKSSNT Study) The Asian Development Bank (ADB) has been playing a leading role in promoting dam building in the Mekong Region and is a key player in the Se San basin. Despite that existing ADB dams in the Mekong have devastated peoples’ livelihoods and have failed to return the promised economic benefits new dams supported by the Bank are proceeding on the basis of studies that ignore both the economic lessons and the rights and livelihoods of local communities.

The ADB has undertaken a series of overview studies or master plans to canvass the possibilities for dam building in the Mekong at the same time that several other master plans and studies are underway. In some cases the same dams or river basins have been studied more than ten times, and yet there is still not any information available to determine environmental impacts. In addition, local communities in areas where dams are being studied usually have no information about proposed projects. See Appendix 5: Dam studies in the Se San.

A Brief History

In 1992, the ADB established the Economic Cooperation in the Greater Mekong Subregion (GMS) Program between the six Mekong countries. The GMS includes programs in the sectors of energy, transport, telecommunications, tourism, human resources, trade facilitation and investment, and environment.

The ADB commissioned Norconsult to undertake a study of the energy sector, called the ‘Subregional Energy Sector Study’ that was completed in 1994. The objective of Norconsult’s Study was “to identify possible projects which can be implemented through bilateral or multilateral cooperation.” Norconsult recommended several further studies including the Se Kong and Se San River basins and the Nam Theun River basin.

The ADB subsequently awarded Norconsult the contract to write the ToR for the Se Kong and Se San Basin Study. The final study called the Se Kong Se San, Nam Theun River Basins Hydropower Study (SKSSNT Study) was to “identify at least six projects suitable for early implementation within the basin. Prepare terms of reference for prefeasibility and/or feasibility studies of these projects.” British consultants Halcrow undertook this study.

The ADB has promoted the SKSSNT Study as a model of best practice in regional development and environmental management. According to their representative at the Workshop on the Final Report the study is “promoting regional development with minimal adverse impacts . . . local and cumulative impacts have been considered.”

However, the ToR for the study states that the aim is to “ensure that environmental and social impacts from the project now will not adversely affect a better project in the future”. In other words, the aim of the study was to determine a sequence for the construction of dams, not to question whether any of these rivers should be dammed. In addition, the SKSSNT Study does not address the impacts of dams that are already constructed or are soon to be constructed as according to the ToR for the study, the study is only considering the “environmental and social implications of the proposed plan.”

The SKSSNT Study was completed in two phases. Phase 1 involved the ranking and selection of six ‘priority’ projects for further study. Phase 2 involved the more detailed study of the six dams chosen in Phase 1.

After the initial ranking, the six dams selected for further study were: Hough Lampan Gnai (Lao PDR), Se San 3 (Vietnam), Xe Keman 3 (Lao PDR), Thoung Kontum (Vietnam), Se San 4 (Vietnam) and Lower Sre Pok (Cambodia). But, political reality dictated that the list be revised to enable each participating country to have two priority projects. Ultimately, the six projects that were studied in Phase 2 were Nam Kong 1 and Xe Keman 3 in Lao PDR, Se San 4 and Thoung Kontum in Vietnam and the Lower Sre Pok and Lower Se San in Cambodia.

Although the SKSSNT Study was intended to take six ‘priority’ projects to the point where they could be constructed, it now appears that these six projects are not the ADB’s next priority for development. Instead several further studies, to be conducted by Halcrow, are underway, both looking at the feasibility and recosting of previously studied individual projects. [6] Several dam projects are now being supported by the ADB that were not included in the final six projects in the SKSSNT Study, including the Se San 3 in Vietnam.

Ignoring environmental impacts

According to the Draft Final Report of the SKSSNT Study it was not possible to study the cumulative impacts from building multiple dams in the Se Kong, Se San and Nam Theun basins as there was insufficient data. Despite this several non-specific warnings were given throughout the study documents regarding the potential for devastating impacts on the environment, particularly downstream. None of these impacts are being investigated further.

The report states: “Changes [caused by multiple developments] combine together to cause cumulative impacts downstream or, in some cases upstream of the point at which their primary effects commence. In the case of hydropower, the most marked cumulative effect is the change in discharge regimes below the generating turbines.”

“Many of the lower tributaries are extremely important locations for fish migration and breeding. The cumulative impacts of schemes in the watersheds above may have dramatic adverse impacts on fish dynamics in the tributaries. However, the impacts do not necessarily end at the confluence of the tributary with the main river.” [IEE3.7]

Halcrow also commented that “. . EIAs relating to projects with the potential to exert such cumulative effects appear to have been carried out in isolation, and ignore the cumulative impacts of the proposed scheme with any other existing or planned scheme. This is an unacceptable defect.”

Despite these warnings, and Halcrow’s admission that there is insufficient information available to conduct a cumulative impact assessment, the ADB is proceeding to support individual hydropower projects.

Appendix 2: Se San 3 hydropower project

The proposed 260 megawatt (MW) Se San 3 hydropower project would be located 20 kilometres south of the Yali Falls hydropower project the Se San River in Vietnam. According to the ADB this project “should be fully commissioned [ready for construction to begin] by the end of 2000.” The Asian Development Bank (ADB) has set aside US$80 million to fund Se San 3 in the Country Assistance Plan for Vietnam. A funding decision must be made within a few months as it is intended move the equipment and workers from the soon to be completed Yali Falls dam to the Se San 3 dam site. The ADB intends to develop the Se San 3 project as a partnership between the Government of Vietnam and the private sector. On 14 July 1999, the Asian Development Bank (ADB) approved a Project Preparatory Technical Assistance (TAR: VIE 31362) to Electricity of Vietnam, to prepare the proposed Se San 3 hydropower project for construction. The estimated cost of the technical assistance is US $1.2 million and is being financed by the ADB on a grant basis from the Japan Special Fund.

The technical assistance project involves identifying an appropriate financing and ownership structure for private sector involvement and completing the environmental, social and technical aspects of project preparation. Swedish consultants, SWECO, funded by Swedish bilateral aid institution, SIDA, completed a feasibility study for the project in February 1999.

The ADB appears determined to proceed with financing the Se San 3 dam regardless of the environmental and social impacts that are reputed to be similar to the severe impacts being experienced by local communities living along the Se San River in Cambodia as a result of the Yali Falls dam. According to the Se San 3 Feasibility Study, the Se San 3 dam will “extend the prevailing impact of the Yali Falls dam 20 kilometres further downstream.” Specifically, the feasibility study indicates that “the effects [of operating Se San 3] will be serious for aquatic life, and the fishing potential for Tip inhabitants [a community downstream] will more or less disappear.” The study continues, “Rapidly rising water [levels] after a shut down period may also create a potential hazard to the inhabitants [of the downstream area] particularly the children.”

According to a consultant working on ADB Project Preparatory Technical Assistance study, that will produce a supplementary EIA Environmental Mitigation Plan for the Se San 3 “the operation of the Yali dam is not environmentally sensitive” and “two dams between them may increase the risk of erosion [along the Se San River’s banks] downstream” as well as interfering with the hydrology of the Se San River and wetlands in the vicinity of the Se San.

References:

  • Feasibility Study on Se San 3 Hydropower Project, Final Report, Feb 1999.
  • ADB TAR: VIE 31362, Terms of Reference, Jul 99.
  • Terra Briefing paper, Damming the Se San, Nov 99.
  • Halcrow, Se Kong, Se San and Nam Theun River Basins Hydropower Study Final Report, Jul 99. http://www.adb.org/Work/Projects/Profiles/PPTA,
  • Email from Kathleen Moktan to International River’s Network, 24.3.00

Appendix 3: Yali Falls hydropower project

The US$ 640 million Yali Falls hydropower project is the first of several planned hydroelectric dams planned on the Se San River, in Vietnam and Cambodia. The 720 megawatt (MW) Yali Falls dam is located in Gia Lai province, Vietnam, approximately 70 kilometres upstream of the Cambodian border. Construction began in 1993 and the project is due to begin generating electricity in the next few months.

The Yali Falls reservoir is 64.5 km2 behind a 65m high and 1460m long dam and has displaced over 3200 mainly ethnic Jarai and Bahnar people. Majority funding for the project came from Russia and the Ukraine in the form of loans and equipment. Swedish aid agency, SIDA, contributed approximately US$ 3 million. In several incidents, beginning in late 1999 village people living along the Se San River in Veun Say, Ta Veng and Andong Meas districts, Cambodia, have experienced severe impacts resulting from the Yali Falls dam, including the drowning of at least five people. Local people report sudden and unprecedented surges of water along the Se San River having caused water levels to increase sharply and suddenly within a period of a few hours, if not a few minutes. These flash floods have also washed away local people’s fishing equipment, boats and other belongings and have impeded farmers’ efforts to plant vegetable and tobacco gardens along the river banks. Several established gardens have been destroyed. Reports also indicate the seasonally flooded forests in the Se San River have begun dying off.

Furthermore, local people have reported the river becomes muddy and contains bubbles when the strange floods occur and people and livestock have become ill as a result of consuming the unclean water. This turbidity and the bubbles (containing nitric and methane gases) are characteristic of water released from a land area recently submerged by a dam’s reservoir.

An environmental impact study (EIA) for the Yali Falls dam was conducted by the Swiss dam consultant company, Electrowatt in 1993. According to the EIA “The population in this area [downstream of the project] is very sparse, and are not dependent on the river in any way. There is no infrastructure of any sort which could be affected.” In fact, the EIA only considered “an area of 8km long and 1km wide below the dam” for the purposes of the study. So, as people living in this area were deemed not to exist and communities living along the Se San River further downstream of the Yali Falls dam were deemed to be outside the “affected” area, Electrowatt’s EIA for the Yali Falls project completely ignored the downstream impacts on these communities in Vietnam and Cambodia.

The EIA also indicates that there will be less flow in the wet season and more in the dry season, “A change not necessarily harmful to the environment.” In fact, the reduced flow to the Se San in Cambodia in the wet season resulting from the Yali Falls dam “is in the order of 10 to 15 percent” according to the EIA.” Plus, the dam will trap about 90 percent of the sediment load leading to additional downstream erosion.

According to the Mekong River Commission (MRC). Cambodia was first consulted about Yali Falls in 1997, four years after construction began.

References:

  • EIA for Yali Falls Hydropower Project, Electrowatt, 1993.
  • Letter from MRC to TERRA, 9.3.00.
  • Interview with Mekong Secretariat, 21.2.95.
  • Incident at the Se San River, Field Trip Report by Yang Saing Koma (CEDAC) and Chea Phalla (NTFP), 16.3.00.
  • ‘Party paper highlights delays’, Power In Asia. 26.7.99

Appendix 4: Another ADB project in the Se San basin: The Poverty Reduction and Environmental Management in Remote Watersheds in the Greater Mekong Subregion Project

In addition to supporting a program of building dams on the Se San, Se Kong and Nam Theun Rivers, the Asian Development Bank (ADB) also has a program under the GMS Working Group on Environment “to protect and conserve areas of significant bio-diversity value by addressing the linked problems of rural poverty and resource degradation in watershed areas.” This program, called the “Poverty Reduction and Environmental Management in Remote Watersheds in the Greater Mekong Subregion Project” identifies local people living in watershed areas as the cause of environmental destruction in those watersheds.

The project is being conducted in two phases. The first phase, which began in June 1998 and was completed July 1999, prepared a shortlist of 14 watersheds in the GMS region that are “considered to fulfill the criteria of extreme poverty and environmental degradation.”7 The second phase, which is being funded by the ADB on a grant basis from the Japan Special Fund, will implement three intervention strategies: integration with rural industry, market based production through settled agriculture, and sustainable management of traditional land use practices.

The Se San watershed has been selected as a target area by the project and pre-feasibility studies for rural development programs in Se San will be undertaken in the next phase of the project.

The project fails to consider the historical and political contexts of the watershed areas under examination and ignores the impact of commercial logging and mainstream development projects on these watershed areas. The ‘environmental impact’ that the project addresses is not the sustainability of resources upon which local people depend for their livelihoods but only the sustainability of development projects such as large dams. According to Noritada Morita, the Director of the ADB’s Program’s Department, the main purpose of the study is to “ensure that you have no downstream problems in the area of siltation” which can threaten dam reservoirs.

Morita also told journalists. “We may need to reduce the population of people in mountainous areas and bring them to normal life. They will have to settle in one place. . . but don’t call it resettlement. It is just migration.”

Appendix 5: Previous hydropower studies on the Se Kong, Se San and Nam Theun

  • 1961: “Comprehensive Reconnaissance Report on the Major Tributaries of the Lower Mekong Basin.” Mekong Reconnaissance team for the Mekong Committee: Funded by Japan.
  • 1970: Joint Development Group “Postwar Development of the Republic of Vietnam” (a project undertaken by US contractors to facilitate US ‘development’ of Vietnam after the US won the war – this plan included several dams, including Yali).
  • 1970: “Report of Indicative Basin Plan, A Proposed Framework for the Development of Water and Related Resources of the Lower Mekong Basin (E/CN.11/WRD/MKG/L.340).” Mekong Secretariat.
  • 1970: “Inventory of Promising Tributary Projects in Laos (WRD/MKG/INF.L 243).” Mekong Secretariat.
  • 1970: “Inventory of Promising Tributary Projects in the Khmer Republic and Vietnam (WRD/MKG/INF.L 472).” Mekong Secretariat
  • 1984: WATCO “Lower Mekong Water Resource Inventory: Summary of Project Possibilities” for the Interim Mekong Commission, funded by the Netherlands.
  • 1989: Institute of Energy Economics (IEE), Japan. “Report of Study on the Vietnam Power Development, a Long and Medium Term Plan.”
  • 1990: PIDC 1 with assistance from the Japanese company Nippon Koei Co. Ltd. “A Feasibility Study on the Development of the Se San Basin.”
  • 1992: NEWJEC. “Ranking Study of Hydropower Projects for Vietnam.”
  • 1993: PIDC1’s Preliminary Technico-economical Report on the Master Plan for the Se San River in 1993
  • 1994: NORCONSULT International. “Subregional Energy Sector Study for the Greater Mekong Subregion” for the ADB.
  • 1995: “Study for Cambodia on Review and Assessment of Water Resources for Hydropower and Identification of Priority Areas.” Mekong River Commission.
  • 1995: NORCONSULT International AS. “Draft Terms of Reference for Xe Kong/ Se San Hydropower Development Study in Cambodia, Lao PDR and Vietnam” for the ADB.
  • 1996: “Hydropower Development Plan for Lao PDR” by the Hydropower Project Office of the Ministry of Industry and Handicrafts
  • 1996: ADB. “Technical Assistance for the Se Kong Se San, Nam Theun River Basins Hydropower Development Study.” TAR: REG 30003.
  • 1997: Sir William Halcrow & Partners, UK. “Se Kong Se San and Nam Theun River Basins Hydropower Study Inception Report” and “Working Papers for Workshop No. 1” for the ADB
  • 1997: Norplan AS. “Water Management Plan for the Nam Theun/ Nam Hinboun Lao PDR Final Report” for the Hydropower Project Office of the Ministry of Industry and Handicrafts
  • 1998: Sir William Halcrow & Partners, UK. “Se Kong Se San and Nam Theun River Basins Hydropower Study Initial Environmental Examination Report” for the ADB
  • 1998: “Master Plan (for hydropower development) of the Se San River” prepared by the Government of Vietnam and reviewed by SWECO (in association with Statkraft Engineering) (SWECO): funded by the Swedish International Development Agency (SIDA).
  • 1999: Sir William Halcrow & Partners, UK. “Se Kong Se San and Nam Theun River Basins Hydropower Study Final Report” for the ADB
  1. Bourdier, F. 1995 in Baird. 1995
  2. Lang. C. 1994
  3. The ADB’s website says Se San 3 ‘should be fully commissioned by the end of 2000’ yet the project appears in the development plan of the ADB’s SKSSNT Study for 2006 and is proposed after the Se San 4 in the SWECO Review of the (Vietnam) Masterplan. Please note that none of these dates should be considered conclusive as the June 1999 issue of International Water, Power and Dam Construction reports yet another date. The article discusses the ADB’s Technical Assistance project for Se San 3 and says the project ‘is now likely to be delayed for several years’ although it ‘would have been commissioned in 2002, according to Vietnam’s 1996-2012 Power Development Plan.’
  4. Feasibility Study on Se San 3 Hydropower Project, Feb 1999
  5. Halcrow, Final Report p.6 Vol. 4, Appendix 11
  6. Refer to the development plan from the SKSSNT Study Draft Final Report attached
  7. ADB, Poverty Reduction Project, Phase 1. Final Report. Executive Summary, P. 16 4

Categories: Mekong Utility Watch

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