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Cambodia Approves Hydropower Dam, Solar Energy Plant to Meet Electricity Demand

“Cambodia will have local sources of energy and reusable fuel consumption—clean and at affordable prices”

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electricity, hydropower dam, solar energy
Cambodian women eat dinner in front of a portable lamp during an electricity outage in Phnom Penh, in a file photo. RFA

Cambodia’s government on Friday approved a hydropower dam and solar energy plant projects in a bid to ease the strain on the country’s electricity grid, which has been unable to meet supply demand, leading to nationwide outages over the past several weeks.

In a statement, the Council of Ministers said SPHP (Cambodia) Co. Ltd. had been approved to invest in an 80-megawatt hydropower dam in Pursat province, while Cambodian firm SchneiTec Co. Ltd. was given permission to build three 60-megawatt solar energy plans in Pursat, Kampong Chhnang and Kampong Speu provinces.

The U.S. $231 million hydropower dam will be built as part of a 39-year concession, while the solar energy plants will each cost U.S. $58 million and be built as part of 20-year concessions, the statement said.

Council of Ministers spokesman Phay Siphan told a press briefing that the power projects would benefit Cambodia “technically, economically and socially.”

“Cambodia will have local sources of energy and reusable fuel consumption—clean and at affordable prices,” he said.

electricity demand, solar energy demand, hydropower dam
The U.S. $231 million hydropower dam will be built as part of a 39-year concession. Wikimedia

“The projects will also employ thousands of people during the construction phase and as a result of ecotourism,” he added, without elaborating. Phay Siphan said that the government expects the plants to generate U.S. $292 million annually.

While the projects will help to ease Cambodia’s power shortages in the future, they will do little to alleviate widespread blackouts over the past several weeks that the government has attributed to high temperatures affecting the ability of dams to generate power and high levels of public consumption.

Officials said recently that the grid is around 400 megawatts short of what is needed to supply the country during the dry season.

The power cuts are expected to last through May and have caused some to question whether they are being orchestrated by the government to drum up public support for proceeding with the controversial Stung Cheay Areng hydropower dam in Koh Kong province, despite environmental concerns that shelved the project in 2015.

Cambodia’s Prime Minister Hun Sen on Tuesday told officials to “cut off electricity” to the homes of those who claim the government is behind the outages, adding, “Let them light torches.”

Alejandro Gonzalez-Davidson, founder of local environmental watchdog Mother Nature, told RFA’s Khmer Service he is concerned that construction of the dam announced Friday will destroy the forest in Pursat “like they have in Koh Kong and Stung Treng” provinces, because the government will use the project as an excuse to log the area.

solar energy plant, hydropower dam, electricity demand
The solar energy plants will each cost U.S. $58 million and be built as part of 20-year concessions. Wikimedia

Meanwhile, Hun Sen announced Friday that the government has canceled plans to lease a Turkish floating power plant that would have produced an additional 200 megawatts of electricity for Cambodia, saying the vessel would not arrive in time to alleviate the nation’s power shortages.

The Khmer Times quoted Ty Norin, secretary of state at the Ministry of Mines and Energy, as saying that Thailand and Laos will “sell us more power” instead.

ALSO READ: China Confirms Wife, Mother of Australian Uyghur Detained in Xinjiang

Ty Norin said Cambodia will increase imports of electricity from Thailand to 200 megawatts from 120 megawatts, while Laos will deliver 50 megawatts instead of 40 megawatts. “So, in total, we get 90 megawatts more,” he said.

Cambodia currently imports 170 megawatts from Vietnam. Cambodia’s Mines and Energy Ministry has said that Cambodia produced 2,650 megawatts of energy in 2018—50 percent of which came from hydroelectric dams. (RFA)

Reported by RFA’s Khmer Service. Translated by Samean Yun. Written in English by Joshua Lipes.

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Cambodia Returns 1,600 Tons of Plastic Waste Exported from US, Canada

Neth Pheaktra said 70 of the containers were shipped from the U.S. and 13 came from Canada. Both countries are major waste exporters

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plastic waste
Containers loaded with plastic waste are pictured in Sihanoukville Port, southwest of Phnom Penh, Cambodia. July 16, 2019. VOA

Cambodian authorities have announced plans to return 1,600 tons of plastic waste exported from the U.S. and Canada, according to a high-ranking official from the Environmental Ministry.

Inspectors found the waste Tuesday. It was packed in 83 containers unloaded in Sihanoukville, one of Cambodia’s main ports.

Ministry of Environment spokesman Neth Pheaktra told VOA Khmer on Wednesday that “authorities are seeking the companies that smuggled the plastic waste in order to take legal action.”  He added that the waste would be returned “to the country of origin.”

Neth Pheaktra said 70 of the containers were shipped from the U.S. and 13 came from Canada. Both countries are major waste exporters.

plastic waste
80 percent of the waste found on 93 beaches was plastic. VOA

‘Not a dustbin’

“Cambodia is not a dustbin where foreign countries can dispose of out-of-date e-waste, and the government also opposes any import of plastic waste and lubricants to be recycled in this country,” said Neth Pheaktra.

In the past, Cambodian authorities have found radioactive and film waste arriving in Sihanoukville.  He said the plastic waste found this week was not biodegradable.

Emily Zeeberg, spokeswoman for the U.S. Embassy in Cambodia, said the embassy “is monitoring reports of plastic waste at the Sihanoukville Autonomous Port.”

Zeeberg added that “we have requested additional information and are offering U.S. government assistance to determine both the exporter (country of origin) and the importing entity here in Cambodia.”

Sorn Chey, who works with the Affiliated Network for Social Accountability in East Asia and the Pacific, said the authorities should heed control mechanisms. “This is something that should not take place,” he added.

plastic waste
Scientists: China’s Ban Causes Plastic To Pile Up, Nations Must Reduce Usage. Pixabay

Chinese project

Cambodia’s rejection this week was the latest step in a trash crisis that emerged when China began Operation Green Fence in February 2013. It was aimed at reducing the vast amounts of contaminated recyclables and waste sent to China.

ALSO READ: Mahindra Group Chairman: No More Plastic Bottles at Boardroom Meeting

In January 2018, Beijing banned almost all imports of two dozen types of recyclable materials, such as plastics, mixed paper and electronic waste. Now, unless the materials are clean and sorted so they are unmixed, China rejects them.

Since then, other countries in Southeast Asia that accepted waste have started to turn it away. In May, Malaysia returned 450 tons of plastic waste to the U.S., the United Kingdom, Canada, Japan and the Netherlands. Earlier this month, Indonesia rejected waste from Australia. (VOA)