Construction on the 720 MW Yali Falls Dam began in 1993 and was completed in 2001.
The project is located in Vietnam, approximately 80 km upstream of the Cambodian border. In 1996, prior to completion of the dam, a temporary coffer dam burst creating major flooding in north-eastern Cambodia (12). Since then, the project has continued to impact the river, its ecosystems, and the people dependent upon it. Upon formal recognition of the downstream effects of Yali Falls water releases, following local community and civil society mobilizations, the Vietnamese and Cambodian governments cooperated to create an early warning system for major water releases, but unfortunately there are many flaws in the system that persist until today.
In Vietnam, a total of 1,658 families were displaced (8,475 people) over the course of the project. Researchers have found that even years after Yali Falls was constructed the relocated villagers, the majority of whom are ethnic minority groups, are still experiencing severe land shortage, poor quality of housing, and poor sanitation standards that affects their health and overall well-being (11) (15). Whilst compensation was provided for lost land and the value of the crops, replacement land was not provided that has affected villagers finding alternative means to livelihood. Given the extensive hydropower ongoing in the river basin there is also the threat that relocated villagers will need to move again due to other projects.
In Cambodia, approximately 55,000 people from 16 different ethnic minority groups in Ratanakiri and Stung Treng provinces have been affected and continue to feel the effects of Yali Falls. Downstream, Cambodian villagers have faced a loss in rice production, loss of livestock due to flash flooding, loss of fisheries, and damages to personal property and farming and fishing equipment. Such major losses have occurred due to irregular water flow changes from the dam's flood gates, which renders farming and fishing along the river banks dangerous. Between 1999-2001, approximately 39 people were reportedly killed (11) (15). Despite official recognition on behalf of the Vietnamese government of downstream effects on Cambodian people only three official meetings have taken place to discuss creating compensation plans and remedy. (5) (6) (7)