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Report

Underwater: Human Rights Impacts of a China Belt and Road Project in Cambodia

"Underwater: Human Rights Impacts of a China Belt and Road Project in Cambodia", 10 August 2021

A large-scale, Chinese-financed hydroelectric dam in northeastern Cambodia, completed in 2018, has undermined the lives and livelihoods of thousands of Indigenous and ethnic minority people, Human Rights Watch said in a report released today. The Lower Sesan 2 dam, one of Asia’s widest dams, flooded large areas upstream of the confluence of the Sesan and Srepok Rivers, two tributaries of the Mekong River.

The 137-page report, “Underwater: Human Rights Impacts of a China Belt and Road Project in Cambodia,” documents economic, social, and cultural rights violations resulting from the Lower Sesan 2 dam’s displacement of nearly 5,000 people whose families had lived in the area for generations, as well as impacts on the livelihoods of tens of thousands of others upstream and downstream. Cambodian authorities and company officials improperly consulted with affected communities before the project’s start and largely ignored their concerns. Many were coerced into accepting inadequate compensation for lost property and income, provided with poor housing and services at resettlement sites, and given no training or assistance to secure new livelihoods. Other affected communities upstream and downstream of the dam received no compensation or assistance. [...]

China Huaneng Group, a large Chinese state-owned electricity generation company, built and operates the dam. Cambodia’s Royal Group and Vietnam’s state-owned electricity company, EVN, hold minor stakes. Chinese government banks provided most of the financing, reportedly budgeted at approximately US$800 million. [...]

Underwater: Human Rights Impacts of a China Belt and Road Project in Cambodia