The Tatay River Hydropower Dam (TRHD)
Tatay River in the Cardamom mountains of Cambodia - Photo from Shutterstock
The Tatay River Hydropower Dam (TRHD)
The Tatay River Hydropower dam is a 246-megawatt (MW) hydropower dam located in the Thma Bang District of Cambodia’s western Koh Kong Province. The dam was built from 2010 to 2015 under a 42-year Build-Operate-Transfer agreement between the Cambodian government and Cambodian Tatay Hydropower Ltd., after which the ownership will be transferred to the Cambodian government. Financed under a US$540 million loan from the China Export–Import Bank (EXIM Bank), the dam was inaugurated in December 2015.
The project was the first time the China National Heavy Machinery Corporation invested in a foreign BOT project. Although the Tatay project was conceived before BRI’s official launch in 2013, sufficient data exists to conceptualize it as a BRI project. Upon its inauguration, the Tatay project was the sixth hydropower dam financed by China in Cambodia, closely following the completion of the 388-megawatt Russei Chrum dam in the same province. By 2016, China had invested over $1.6 billion in Cambodian hydropower, with a net capacity of 928-megawatts. As of 2021, all hydropower projects in Cambodia have been financed by China, although several additional dam projects, currently under MoU study, are slated to be financed by other foreign partners, such as Korea, Russia, Vietnam, and Thailand.
The project required the excavation of 7 million m³ of earth and 900,000 m³ of stone, for an active water storage capacity estimated at 322 m³ and an overall reservoir capacity of 439 million m³. The main features of the project are two adjacent concrete face rockfill dams, a gated overflow spillway equipped with a chute and flip-bucket, and an 11 km long, 8 m diameter headrace tunnel. A power generation system sits on the left bank, adjacent to a three-hole spillway, and connects to the national grid via a 63 km transmission line, allowing electricity to be sold at a rate of 7.45 cents per kilowatt-hour to the Cambodian state-owned Electricitè du Cambodge.
Since operationalization, the dam’s three generators have an annual production capacity of 849 GWh. This represented almost 24 percent of Cambodia’s total hydropower generation (3,493 GWh) and ten percent of Cambodia’s total domestic electricity production (8,513 GWh) in 2020. The Cambodian government applauded the project for the local jobs and economic advancement it provided, in addition to flood protection, energy security, affordability, and reliability.
China National Heavy Machinery Corporation (CHMC), a subsidiary of SINOMACH, created the joint venture Beijing Sanlian International Investment Co., Ltd. along with two other Chinese companies: PowerChina Northwest Engineering Corporation Limited of China Hydropower Engineering Consulting Group Co. (CHECC, a subsidiary of China Electric Power Construction Group Co., Ltd. or CEPCA) and CHINT Company Limited. However, current Chinese corporate records describe CHMC and CHINT Group as the sole shareholders of Beijing Sanlian International Investment Co., Ltd., at 93.13 and 6.88 percent respectively. Cambodian Tatay Hydropower Limited (CTHL) was subsequently established as the sole recipient of Beijing Sanlian International Investment Co., Ltd. investments. CTHL stands as the sole owner of the Tatay dam under the BOT agreement and was established specifically for this project.
Cambodia Tatay Hydropower Ltd. contracted China Gezhouba Group Corporation–in the firm’s own words, a “core member” of the state-owned enterprise China Energy Engineering Group–to perform the bulk of the construction.
Environmental Impacts: Assessment, Transparency, and Outcomes
The official environmental impact assessment (EIA) for the Tatay River Hydropower Dam is not readily available to the public. A draft EIA published on Open Development Cambodia in 2010 states that the reservoir created by the project will flood 2,949 hectares permanently and 182 hectares temporarily. The flooding would affect wildlife and the livelihoods of locals who depend on the forest and its resources to make a living. The EIA further mentioned concerns regarding diminished air and water quality during construction and some years after project completion.
Moreover, in June 2009, a public forum was held to discuss the impacts of the Tatay project prior to its approval and to release preliminary findings from the KCC-prepared EIA. While the Cambodian government defended large dams, claiming that their economic benefits outweigh their environmental impacts, local residents raised concerns over the preliminary results. Although journalists highlighted officials’ preliminary considerations on the relocation of impacted households, the lack of transparency and public disclosure of official documents pertaining to project specifics leaves it unclear whether relocation and/ or displacement actually occurred.
At the time of the assessment, there are no laws specifically governing projects conducted by foreign SOEs. They are primarily governed and overseen via ad-hoc mechanisms within related ministries. This same general framework also governs PPP projects in Cambodia. The two companies contracted to undertake the feasibility studies under this project either have the same parent company or have some other related interest to the project. This overlap is further illuminated by the leadership of the companies involved, who also have shareholder interests in the project. Under the Standard Operating Procedures on Procurement for All Externally Financed Projects/Programs, such shared interest of ownership and leadership would typically disqualify contractors or subcontractors in Public Procurement projects. However, it is explicitly stated that this does not apply to public-private partnerships (PPP) or private sector projects.
There is still no public disclosure of the procurement bidding or other related documents, the feasibility study, the budget, the MoU, or the EIA. The relative lack of transparency during project planning and operationalization continues to present challenges for stakeholders and development partners in determining the impacts of the project. For example, multiple reports listed differing project budget figures, ranging from US$215 million to US$540 million. Differing reports of the estimated construction and completion dates from SINOMACH also causes confusion around the project’s timeline. It is unclear whether the original estimates were simply misinformed or if the project experienced delays or took longer than expected and what implications this had on the overall project budget.
To capture different practices, quality and level of transparency, researchers are asked to answer six related questions for each data point. 1 point is assigned for each question to which the answer is “yes.” Each data point therefore has a total score between 0 and 6, where “0” means no information was publicly available at the time of research (not transparent) and “6” means full transparency.
|Project & Contract Phase||Project Information||Score||Response||Link to Information|
|Project Identification||Project owner||Cambodian Stung Tatay Hydropower Company Ltd.||http://www.sinomach.com.cn/en/MediaCenter/News/201412/t20141209_21765.html|
|Project name||Stung Tatay Hydropower Plant||http://www.sinomach.com.cn/en/MediaCenter/News/201412/t20141209_21765.html|
|Project Location||Thma Bang District
(Although mistranslated to MaBang district in the press release)
|Purpose||Produce electricity, help meet the demand gap in Cambodia, contribute to economic growth||https://www.chinadaily.com.cn/m/gezhouba/2015-12/31/content_23473917.htm|
|Project description||A 246MW hydropower dam constructed on the Tatay River in Cambodia’s Koh Kong province. Funded by a USD 540 million loan from China’s EXIM Bank under a 42-year Build-Operate-Transfer contract. Construction began in 2010 and finished in 2015. Electricity from the dam is sold to Cambodian state-owned Electricité du Cambodge at 7.45 cents per kWh.|
|Project Preparation||Project Scope (main output)||-1,170m dam wall
-382 MW Francis Turbine Generators
-Annual generating capacity of 849 kWh
-Three whole spillways on left bank
-Power plant on left bank
This project results in the loss of 2,949 hectares permanently and 182 hectares temporarily. It can cause flooding of nearly 3,000ha forest which is the home of many wildlife and fish species including the elephant, Sun bear, wild boar, Siamese crocodile, dragonfish, etc. Also, the project will affect communities’ livelihoods in that the local populace relies on that forest for living.
Besides, this construction also causes problems in air and water quality both during construction and some years after the project finished. Since this project area was the last refuge of Khmer Rouge, the large number of land mines were recognized as having potential to cause injury or death to construction workers.
Responding to these issues, the project owner will cooperate with forestry administration and relevant ministries to establish a forest committee. This committee has a role to manage the forest clearance and detect any illegal activities in and around the project side. During the construction, the company will reduce the air pollution and noise effect by using high-quality machines and following the standard of Ministry of Environment. The company will also establish a foundation to support any forest conservation program.
Moreover, they will provide a budget for supporting agriculture programs (animal feeding, farming, etc.) and loans for vulnerable local people to run small businesses as well. In addition, the company will tackle waste management, tree planting, and healthcare services. On the other hand, they also work with CMAC to clear mines around that area to provide safety to the construction workers.
|Environmental and social impact assessment: Tatay hydroelectric project in Koh Kong province, Cambodia – Agreements – OD Mekong Datahub (https://data.opendevelopmentcambodia.net/agreement/environmental-and-social-impact-assessment-tatay-hydroelectric-project-in-koh-kong-province)|
|Land and settlement impact||7,000,000 m³ of earth removed
900,000 m³ of rock removed 3,000ha flooded, 2,949 ha flooded permanently per 2010 EIA.4,600ha flooded per 2009 JICA Report.1,600 ha flooded per 2012 & 2020 UNFCC CDM report.
Until March 2009, there were no agricultural activities or developed projects in that area. Along Stung Tatay, there was also no farming there due to a lack of space and freshwater (saltwater). However, it will affect 1,594 families both upstream and downstream of Stung Tatay who rely on forests. No families relocated because of this project, according to the EIA report.
Per the 2009 JICA report, 21 villages, home to 1,654 families, are within a 40km radius of the project (which they predicted would flood 46km²). Their assessment also described that 84% of the flooded land was forest, while 3% was agriculture.
Environmental and social impact assessment: Tatay hydroelectric project in Koh Kong province, Cambodia – Agreements – OD Mekong Datahub (https://data.opendevelopmentcambodia.net/agreement/environmental-and-social-impact-assessment-tatay-hydroelectric-project-in-koh-kong-province)
|Contact details||China National Machinery Industry Corporation (Sinomach)
No.3 Danling Street, Haidian District, Beijing, P.R.China
+86 10 8268 8888
China National Heavy Machinery Corporation
Cambodian Tatay Hydropower Limited
|Funding sources||Export-Import Bank of China (EXIM)|
|Project Budget||During the website’s latest update, no information was available publicly.|
|Project budget approval date||Information not disclosed to the public.|
|Project Completion||Project status (current)||Completed|
|Completion cost (projected)||Projected cost:
SINOMACH 2009 report: USD 505 million
2012 PDD of CDM: USD 482,460,000 (USD 482 million USD)
International Rivers, Rivers Coalition in Cambodia (Jan 2008), JICA (Jan 2009), RUPP Study (2013):
USD 215 million
Actual cost: USD 540 million
|Completion date (projected)||SINOMACH
Construction initiation date: May 21st, 2009
Projected completion date: end of 2013
UNFCC CDM Project Description
China Aid Data
Phnom Penh Post
China Gezhouba Group, Ltd.
|Scope at completion||Total Investment:
EIA and news: USD 540 m
SINOMACH 2009 report: USD 505 million PDD of CDM: USD 482,460,000 (USD 482m)
Project’s estimated cost by International Rivers, River Coalition in Cambodia and JICA: USD 215 million
|Reasons for project changes||During the website’s latest update, no information was available publicly.|
|Reference to audit and evaluation reports||During the website’s latest update, no information was available publicly.|
|Procurement||Procuring entity||China National Heavy Machinery Corporation||https://china.aiddata.org/projects/32192|
|Procuring entity contact details||No. Jia 23 Fu Xing Road Haidian District, Beijing, China
+86 10 6821 1861
|Procurement process||Unsolicited Proposal
Direct Negotiation Contract Award
|Contract type||Feasibility Study:
Machinery Industry Survey Design and Research Institute
(owned by SINOMACH, the parent company of project owner China National Heavy Machinery Corporation)
Northwest Survey Design and Research Institute
Environmental Impact Assessment:
Machinery and Turbines:
Construction Camp Logistics/Management:
|Contract status (current)||Closed||https://www.khmertimeskh.com/33923/cambodias-energy-rising-with-new-hydro-plant-officials/|
|Number of firms tendering||During the website’s latest update, no information was available publicly.|
|Cost estimate||During the website’s latest update, no information was available publicly.|
|Contract administration entity||During the website’s latest update, no information was available publicly.|
|Contract title||During the website’s latest update, no information was available publicly.|
|Contract firm(s)||During the website’s latest update, no information was available publicly.|
|Contract price||During the website’s latest update, no information was available publicly.|
|Contract scope of work||During the website’s latest update, no information was available publicly.|
|Contract start date and duration||MoU for feasibility study signed January 2007|
|Implementation||Variation to contract price||During the website’s latest update, no information was available publicly.|
|Escalation of contract price||During the website’s latest update, no information was available publicly.|
|Variation to contract duration||During the website’s latest update, no information was available publicly.|
|Variation to contract scope||During the website’s latest update, no information was available publicly.|
|Reasons for price changes||During the website’s latest update, no information was available publicly.|
|Reasons for scope & duration changes||During the website’s latest update, no information was available publicly.|