Mekong Utility Watch

Heavy water release from Vietnam’s Yali Falls dam floods communities in northeastern Cambodia

Sesan Protection Network

September 1, 2005

A water release from the 720-MW Yali Falls dam has caused one death, three injuries and inundated rice fields.


Ratanakiri Province: Ethnic minority groups living downstream of
Vietnam’s Yali Falls dam on the Sesan River recently experienced
large-scale floods due to a water release from the 720 MW hydropower
dam which caused one death, three injuries and inundated rice fields
and other cultivations. The heavy flooding occurred August 3-13 and
adversely affected many of the 60 villages living along the Sesan River
in Ratanakiri Province.

Villagers have expressed fear for their lives and concern over their
rice fields, cultivations and food security to the Sesan Protection
Network. “Before we were not afraid of the floods, but now we are
afraid,” expressed one Vuen Sai district villager after reporting a
boating accident that occurred on August 9 in Hat Pot commune, Vuen
Sai. A boat was struck by a tree that had fallen down due to riverbank
erosion caused by the flood, 1 woman was killed and 3 others were
severely injured.

Other districts have also suffered from the flood. In Ta Veng district,
three people have died of water-borne illness due to the floods. And in
all of the four districts along the Sesan River in Ratanakiri, many
rice fields and farm crops were damaged. “If the situation does not
change, we can not live near the river anymore,” stated one villager.
“We can no longer rely on the river.”

Prior to the water release, Vietnam gave notification to Cambodia which
was passed down to commune council members; however there was not
enough time to pass the information onto many of the communities.

Without reliable knowledge on when water releases will occur, villagers
along the Sesan River are exposed to erratic and dangerous changes in
the water flow, which have caused flooding, death by drowning, sudden
water level fluctuations, serious riverbank erosion and have also swept
away homes, equipment and livestock.

Prior to 2003, the Cambodian National Mekong Committee had tried to
persuade Vietnam to mitigate the devastation caused by Yali Falls.
These talks only amounted in pledges for cooperation on future studies
and an agreement by Vietnam to provide early warnings for large-scale
water releases. However, these warnings have been largely ineffective
because of the remote locations of the communities and the
non-existence of electronic communications infrastructure. Meetings of
negotiation to change Yali’s operating regime to reduce downstream
impacts have since stalled.

For more than nine years, the Yali Falls dam has modified the Sesan
River’s hydrological regime and water quality, causing large-scale
environmental, social and economic impacts to thousands of people
living along the river in Vietnam and Cambodia. Despite these severe
impacts and villagers’ appeals to the governments of Vietnam and
Cambodia, no mitigation or compensation has been given and further dam
construction continues on the river.

For further information, please contact:

Kim Sangha, Coordinator of the Sesan Protection Network

Tel: 855 (0) 11 942 621


Categories: Mekong Utility Watch

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