In May 2015, Nicolas travelled to the Lower Sesan II dam area and surrounding villages in collaboration with Oxfam Australia and interviewed families who had been slated for relocation to purpose-built villages.

The general atmosphere was a mix of fear and frustration amongst the villagers, who had received little information about the project. Authorities, they said, merely told them that their village was located inside the dam’s future reservoir site, and that their homes would be flooded once the dam was complete.

But relocation was not a viable option for locals. The Chinese and Cambodian companies in charge of constructing the dam had set up neatly rowed homes in a vacant field near the main highway.The closest forest, a main source of the villagers’ livelihood in their old town, sits several kilometres away. Fishing, the community’s only other source of income, will become impossible as rivers and even the dam reservoir will be out of reach.

Research suggested that if the dam was just a little lower than the original plans suggested, the villagers wouldn’t have to be relocated. That, however, is not an option for the developers, Cambodia’s Royal Group and China’s Hydrolancang International Energy.

In order to clear the reservoir from trees that might rot and pollute the water, Royal Group and Hydrolancang were granted the right to clear the forest. At similar sites, developers have only cleared valuable logs, and left the rest to rot. The Lower Sesan II proves to be no different.

Environmentalists and scientists have said that the Lower Sesan II might be the worst dam to be built on a tributary of the Mekong to date, as the Sesan river serves as a migratory pathway for fish and is vital as a spawning ground for several species endemic to this region.

The repercussions of the Lower Sesan II are expected to be felt all the way down stream in Mekong Delta in southern Vietnam.

  • Year: 2015
  • Client: OXFAM
  • Photos: Nicolas Axelrod
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