Yet another village along the Mekong in Phnom Penh’s Russei Keo district has suffered the collapse of its riverbanks due to a nearby sand-dredging operation, village representatives said yesterday.
According to Yeng Yoeun, a villager representative from Russei Keo’s Koh Dach commune, several barges had been dredging sand in Koh Dach’s Chong Koh village around the clock, causing the riverbank in several areas, including those near villagers’ houses, to slide into the river.
“Now nine sand barges are dredging noisily night and day,” Yoeun said, noting that the dredging had been going on for four years with no intervention from authorities. “Before, [the slope] from the bank to the river was about 50 metres. Now when [we] go down, we immediately reach the water.”
Koh Dach joins Prek Liep and Svay Pak communes – also located in Russei Keo district – which were themselves subject to bank collapse.
Svay Pak villagers as recently as this month refused what they called inadequate compensation after dredging-induced bank erosion caused structural damage to their homes.
Long Botta, village representative in Prek Liep commune, said his house had toppled into the river in 2009 due to dredging.
Now, he added, the dredging company was stockpiling its sand near his home, generating excessive noise despite an October complaint to the Ministry of Environment.
Lim Sroy, a representative of the dredging company Lim Sroy Group, dismissed villagers’ allegations, saying the collapse was unrelated to his dredging, which he maintained was carried out at least 200 metres from the water’s edge, in accordance with the Ministry of Water Resources’ regulations.
“People misunderstand [when they say] that sand dredging makes the river bank collapse,” he said.
“On the contrary, [dredging] is good because the dredging is like us clearing out the river[bed] for the government.”
Russei Keo District Deputy Governor Ly Rosamy said that district authorities would take legal action against any company that dredged unlawfully close to the river bank, but “we cannot prohibit them if they dredge in the middle of the river”.
To contact the reporter on this story: Meas Sokchea at firstname.lastname@example.org