PHNOM PENH: Cambodia’s prime minister Hun Manet said today that the country will not build dams on the Mekong River, after scrapping a US$1.5 billion coal project in a protected reserve.
Cambodia has come under fire for allowing companies to clear hundreds of thousands of hectares of forest – including in protected areas – for everything from rubber and sugar cane plantations to hydropower dams.
Prime Minister Hun Manet said building dams on the mainstream of the Mekong would have “a huge impact” on the environment and ecology in the river itself and the Tonle Sap Lake, Southeast Asia’s largest freshwater lake and a key source of fish for Cambodians.
“The government will not build any dams along the Mekong River because it affects a lot,” he said during a groundbreaking ceremony for a hydropower dam in the coastal province of Koh Kong.
He also officially announced the cancellation of the US$1.5 billion, 700 megawatts coal plant in the protected Botum Sakor Park in Koh Kong.
The two-unit Botum Sakor plant had been due to come online around 2025.
Officials are considering replacing the project by importing liquefied natural gas.
Hun Manet reiterated that Cambodia would not develop new coal power plants as part of the country’s “responsibility for the world’s shared environment and climate”.
He said the move was a message to countries at COP28 climate talks in Dubai.
Renewable energy accounts for 60% of the country’s energy sources, he said.
Hun Manet said Cambodia’s energy mix would be 70% renewable by 2030 “so that our country becomes the clean energy destination for tourism and investment”.
In December 2021, the country published its roadmap to achieving net zero carbon emissions by 2050.
It includes a pledge to boost renewables, which already account for much of its electricity generation thanks to hydropower, as well as investments in LNG import, storage, and infrastructure.
Coal generated 35.5% of Cambodia’s electricity in 2022, according to the country’s electricity authority, with hydropower accounting for nearly 54%.