A $3,000 grant through RAN’s Protect-An-Acre program is supporting Mother Nature, a Cambodian movement of Buddhist monks, environmental activists and remote communities fighting for the cancellation of the proposed Cheay Areng dam in the Areng Valley of southwest Cambodia.
The dam would flood up to 50,000 acres of forest, half of which is part of the Central Cardamom Protected Forest, while the additional area is home to more than 1,000 Khmer Daeum Indigenous peoples. Habitat for a vast array of rare fauna and flora, including the clouded leopard, would be lost and people would be forcibly relocated into a known elephant corridor, far from any major body of water, where rice growing is next to impossible. Construction would also open up adjacent rainforest to further logging, poaching and land encroachment.
All of this destruction would be caused for very little return, in the grand scheme of things. The dam, which is being forced upon local people without any kind of consent or dialogue, would produce a very small amount of electricity (108 MW) at a huge cost to Cambodians (approx. U$300 million).
To bring the Save Areng Valley campaign to a larger audience in Cambodia and internationally, as well as protect the forest from the illegal logging that has accelerated since plans for the Cheay Areng dam were announced, monks are leading tree blessing ceremonies, wrapping long orange ribbons around trees with participation from local villagers. The Prolay Buddhist temple in the valley is also being rebuilt and prepared to accommodate guests as part of an an eco-tourism project meant to provide a peaceful counterargument to illegal logging and the inefficient, expensive and destructive dam plans.
These efforts are paying off in raising awareness about this critical and winnable campaign, as demonstrated by this excellent video essay produced by Cambodia’s Phnom Penh Post:
Find out more about the Save Areng Valley campaign at Mother Nature.