Reflection of the risk management system in Cambodia: The case of infectious diseases due to Yali Dam

By Sopheap Chak

The case of infectious diseases due to Yali Dam

Villagers in a remote Stung Treng’s Svay Rieng village living along the Sesan River reportedly appeal for health treatment assistant due to the infectious disease coming from dirty water flowing from the Yali dam in Vietnam. Majority of 200 families in this village are using the water from Sesan River in where dirty water, rubbish, and feces and water infiltrates from a red earth area are discharged from the Yali Dam located near Cambodia-Vietnam border.

This has resulted to different types of infectious diseases including diarrhea, itchy skin diseases, swollen limbs, typhoid, on the villagers; particularly the children. Over 20 children and adults have reportedly suffered from diarrhea and itchy skin disease since January 2010.

Notably, these kind of disease symptoms had never appeared in this village who always consumed the water from the river. The below video, in Khmer language, was reported by Radio Free Asia, where villagers were echoed their disease symptom and its root causes. Translation excerpt is available on the Mirror.

In fact, there have been much discussion and concerns by many stakeholders concerning the impact resulted from the building of the Yali Dam since 2000. The Vietnam’s $1 billion Yali Falls dam which was begun without prior Environment Impact Assessment (EIA) was later assessed by community-based groups who concluded that the dame has causes and is causing serious environmental and socio-economic impact to 20,000 people in 59 villages in the dam affected area, downstream on the Se San river in Cambodia’s Ratanakkiri and Steung Treng provinces.

The study conducted in 2000 further revealed that the dam is bringing death, disease and environmental devastation to Cambodia even before it is fully working. These mentioned impact has actually and continually occurred now. In 2000 report, five Cambodians were reportedly killed, crops destroyed, and fishing boats lost after the released water from the Vietnamese power station into the Se San river that cause a sudden surge in the volume and current downstream in Cambodia’s Ratanakkiri province.

There has been also much discussion on the quality of water which has harmed many livestock.

“According to the study, villagers claimed that more than 4,900 buffalo have died of unusual diseases since the water quality problem began in 1996. They also reported the similar deaths of more than 2,200 cows, 7,800 pigs, 1,600 ducks, tens of thousands of chickens, and more than 2,500 dogs and cats”

Regardless these reported cases, it seems there have been yet proper mechanisms being addressed and continued to impact to the community well-being where the social infrastructure including health care or risk reduction system have been yet well equipped. If this continued, it will be resulted into large social and economical cost similar to Minamata disease, where Japanese government had failed to taken any immediate risk assessment and reduction.

Background of Risk Management System Section:

This is a series of reflection on the risk of management system in Cambodia followed the study on Japan’s Minamanta disease; particularly, after a current IUJ‘s lecture seminar, “The Error shall not be Repeated,” by Mr. Katuhiko Bando, a key attorney for the lawsuits filed by the victims of the Minamata disease in Niigata and Kumamoto against the polluted companies since the late 1960s. Mr. Bando have kept legal fighting, regardless the recommendation by many other attorneys and judges to have political resolution, in order that justice and proper compensation for the victims can be prevailed. The Minamanta case reveals much failure of Japanese government in risk management system by putting more priority on industrial activity (after the post-war war II period and during competitive world market), and fails to involve stakeholders (who can be individuals, groups or organization that can affect, be affected by or perceived themselves to be affected) for risk communication and monitoring. This failure have great impact on the society; especially the victims who have been burdened for the legal battle and social respect.

The early reflection to Cambodia was on the current practice of the Cambodian government who neglects or bypasses the regulations in approving forest concessions or filling the lakes is not only harmful to natural resource depletion, but also to environment, to human life, and the whole community survival. This includes the case of 1) the Bokor mountain which have been authorized by the government to private company in the name of development project of palm oil and cassava plantations and livestock farms,and 2) the filling of Boeng Kok Lake, which the private company could start their land filling operation even before the Environmental Impact Assessment (EIA) had been approved. Though the company recently obtained EIA stated that the lake the Boeng Kok is ?dead lake?no major impact on environment?, there is also remark that some flooding will occur in rainy season and they are unable to provide any specific estimation on severity of risk.

Relevant articles:

Another Failure of Risk Management System: a case of SMON

Reflection on the risk management system in cambodia

A failure of risk management system a case of minamata disease

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