Lower Sesan 2: Same Company, Two Dams, One River Report

Iris Ren
Saturday, January 31, 2015

China’s enthusiasm for dam building has in recent years spilled over into the Mekong region. Development plans and construction for a 28 dam cascade on the Upper Mekong (Lancang River) have been underway for over 20 years, which have fundamentally altered the entire Mekong River Basin. However, more recent has been the emergence of Chinese state-owned enterprises active in dam building in China taking a leading role in hydropower development of the Lower Mekong River Basin as project developers with the support of China’s “going-out” policy. In line with this trend, Hydrolancang – responsible for constructing no less than 7 dams on the Upper Mekong – began construction in 2013 on its first overseas hydropower project, the Lower Sesan 2 Dam Project in Cambodia.

Dams in the Mekong Basin have been controversial for a number of reasons: impact on fisheries, fragmentation of the globally unique freshwater ecosystems, a poor track record on environmental and social impact mitigation, and downstream transboundary impacts. Many of these factors are of concern in the Lower Sesan 2 Dam Project and for these reasons the project has been amongst the most controversial and destructive projects to be developed in recent years.

In this report, three dams have been compared in the Mekong River Basin to contrast and compare efforts in environmental and social impact mitigation. The three projects examined are Manwan Dam (phase 1 completed in 1995 and phase 2 completed in 2007, Lancang River, China), Nuozhadu Dam (completed 2014, Lancang River, China), and Lower Sesan 2 (Under Construction, Sesan River, Cambodia). Through fieldwork and literature review (both Chinese and English), we have sought to better understand and analyze the standards adopted by Hydrolancang in its domestic work in China and in overseas contexts as a co-project developer in Cambodia.

Lower Sesan 2: Same Company, Two Dams, One River Report by LowerSesan2