The Cambodian farmers and their disappearing forests and fish

A young journalist from Phnom Penh visits a rural community to write about the impact of the Chinese dam there. He concludes, “Now I understand not every development plan benefits the community.”

The Veal Veng district of Cambodia once boasted a rich biodiversity in natural resources and wildlife. However, it all changed with the nation’s first large scale hydroelectric power plant project, the Stung Russei Chrum hydropower station, located in Koh Kong province, just next door to Veal Veng. This was the first of many dams constructed in Cambodia to supply the electrical needs of the nation.

Operated and constructed by China Huadian Corp, the dam started operation in 2013 and has since been claimed as part of China’s Belt & Road Initiative. A Cambodian spokesman for the Ministry of Public Works and Transport assured that “All BRI projects have been built in an environmentally friendly manner.”

Unfortunately, the dam and the deforestation in the area, brought on by excessive logging, have since left the area more prone to natural disasters. As natural resources in the area are depleted, it threatens the survival of both the wildlife and the humans there who depend on nature to live.


A young journalist intern from Phnom Penh is visiting a rural community to write about the new Chinese hydroelectric dam there. According to the farmers he met, after the dam construction and consequent soil erosion, farming and fishing are no longer profitable. Meanwhile, debts are mounting. The young journalist realizes that “not every development plan benefits the community” and vows to become a voice for the voiceless.

This illustrated story is commissioned by Innovation for Change – East Asia. It is part of the project ‘Stories of the Impact of China’s BRI’, which features eight stories about communities who are severely impacted by projects that fall under China’s BRI or other Chinese-led development. For each story, we brought together a local community partner and an artist/storyteller. The local community partner did the research and analysis of the issues at stake for their community. After that, the artist/storyteller, with the guidance of a story curator, turned the research into a story. Featuring stories from Cambodia, Laos, Malaysia, Myanmar, the Philippines, Thailand, and Vietnam, this project aims to show the range of adverse impacts brought on by developments that do not listen to the concerns of the affected communities. In amplifying their voices, we hope they can be heard.

The name of the artist-storytellers and local community partner are withheld for their security.


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