A Dam has so many effects, both good and bad. The effects on the people, who lives are at stake, are sometimes forgotten in the whirlwind that occurs before a dam project is given the go ahead. Here I tell a few stories of the people who will bear the brunt of the Sambor Dam across the Mekong River in Cambodia, if it goes ahead.
Lunchtime is approaching, so naturally our feet lead us towards the food market. As we wander through the market, I am transfixed by the smells, sounds and sights. There’s splattering of meat to one side, as a butcher chops and prepares every last part of what I can only assume is chicken. Then there’s another stall with slithering, shiny fish, fresh from the river this morning. Inside the market, the Mekong River is out of sight, yet the fish squirming in the large colourful bowls reminds me that the river is never far.
For a moment, my attention is caught by a cute baby gurgling away as his dad feeds him. It’s definitely lunchtime. The dad laughs at the baby’s loud exclamation, as do we. We nod in agreement that the food must be good – baby language needs no translation! Soon enough (with the help of our translator), we strike up conversation.
It’s 11:20am so the school is out for lunch until 1pm. During the break he comes to eat lunch with his wife (who runs this market stall in his absence) and children. Mr. F has two other children (who are aged 4 and 7 years old) as well as the cute baby. He has lived in this village since he was born. After the collapse of the Khmer Rouge in the late 70s, Cambodia had a shortage of teachers. Mr. F explains how he wanted to help the community, so decided to train as a teacher. Today, he teaches in the local primary school.
Soon enough, the conversation comes round the the impending Dam. Mr. F admits to hearing rumours from others village members, but he says he doesn’t know much about it. I comment about how worrying that must be for him and his family. His face breaks out into a smile (a response I wasn’t expecting) as he exclaims how good the Dam will be for the development of the country. He’s happy about this prospect.
But, what about if you have to move? I ask, still slightly surprised by his answer. Mr. F simply says that if the government wants him to move, then he will move. And anyway, teachers find jobs easily, so he’s not worried about that.
But, what about the community? Hopefully we will move together as a community, he replies earnestly. He reiterates that he has faith in the government to provide adequate compensation and to provide somewhere decent for them to move to.
But, what about the fisherman? To this, he ponders a second. Then chuckles as he tells us how bad he is at fishing, so it’s a blessing that he’s not a fisherman. And, he adds hastily, it would stop all the illegal fishing.
I’m not sure what else to say; as Mr. F seems to have an answer for everything. He has mainly put all his faith into the government to do what is right for the country, which could come at a cost to this village and yet he’s willing to accept that. I’m left puzzled as to whether Mr. F is open-minded or just has a little too much faith in the government…