PRIME Minster Hun Sen yesterday ordered a review of marine dredging operations, warning the practice must be strictly monitored or it could devastate Cambodia’s islands and beaches.
At an event in Sihanoukville, the premier also said seawater dredging could affect the livelihoods of people in the area.
“If there is such [dredging] all beaches and islands will be devastated,” he said. “Don’t be mistaken on that issue.”
The premier also said he had ordered the Minister of Water Resources and Meteorology, Lim Kean Hor, to inspect freshwater sand dredging operations near eco-tourism projects in Koh Kong province’s Chipat commune, after receiving complaints about such activity from the Cambodian Association of Travel Agents.
Meanwhile ruling party Senator Ly Yong Phat has reportedly started scaling back a massive dredging operation being conducted by his company LYP Group on the Tatai river, also in Koh Kong province, after meeting concerned tourism operators last week.
In late 2010, LYP Group was granted a permit to dredge at seven different locations on the Tatai river, totaling more the 32 square kilometres, by the Ministry of Industry, Mining and Energy.
Tourism operators and representatives of communities affected by the dredging have complained the operation has decimated fish stocks, caused river banks to collapse, scared away tourists and released foul smelling gasses that threatened delicate mangrove ecosystems.
Janet Newman, owner of the Rainbow lodge eco-tourism resort on the Tatai river, said yesterday that dredging boats had moved away from her premises recently, following a constructive meeting with the tycoon last Tuesday.
“Quite a lot of them seem to be leaving. Yesterday I saw two cranes leaving and today two of the big digger machines have gone down the river and they look like they’re just waiting for the tide to go out [so they can pass] the bridge,” she said.
“It basically seems like they’re doing what they said they would do which is reduce the number of ships and stay away from the businesses and the village.”
Ly Yong Phat said yesterday he did not know whether or not LYP Group had reduced its dredging activities in Tatai.