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Logo of Phnom Penh Post newspaper Phnom Penh Post - Sand dredging destroying farms, riverbanks in Prey Veng: villagers

Sand dredging destroying farms, riverbanks in Prey Veng: villagers

Hundreds of villagers have complained about a big dredging operation on the Tonle Mekong

MORE than 2,000 villagers in Peam Meanchey commune in Prey Veng have complained to local authorities that a massively-expanded sand dredging operation run by a private company has caused large sections of the Tonle Mekong riverbank to collapse and destroyed some of their farm land.

"Our farmland will collapse into the river if the company continues pumping in our village," said Khim Heang, a farmer from the commune's Boeng Khaek village.

Cheng Saveoun, also a resident of Boeng Khaek village, said he and other villagers filed several complaints with commune officials about the Phal Sareth Co but nothing has been done to stop the dredging.

"For three years this company has been pumping sand in our village with no regard for the danger to the riverbank," he said.

In 2005, the Phal Sareth Co was using three ships to collect sand from the river. This year, its operation has expanded and is using 14 boats to dredge the river, Yun Yann, village chief of Boeng Khaek, told the Post.

"We will complain to Prime Minister Hun Sen if the company continues its activities," he said.

Bunchan Kreusna, vice president of the Phal Sareth Company, told the Post Wednesday that his company is operating legally.

"People misunderstand the technical standards of dredging," Bunchan Kreusna said. "Specialists from related institutions are also irresponsible because they allow us to dredge sand from the areas we're working in. Now they blame us for the collapse of the riverbank."

Bunchan Kreusna said his company has spent more than US$100,000 on  obtaining dredging licenses.

Khun Khon, chief of Thmey village in Peam Meanchey commune, said local officials insist the riverbank collapses are the result of strong river currents during the rainy season but villagers are not convinced.

"We're not experts, but pumping only 70 to 80 metres from the riverbank has destroyed farmland belonging to hundreds of families," he said.

Chuo Sophat, head of the Peam Meanchey commune, acknowledged the sand pumping has affected residents' farmland but said he had no power to stop the company from operating.

"The owner has an investment license from the government, so I have no authority to stop them," he said.

Prey Veng Deputy Governor Cheam Him told the Post he would send experts to evaluate the situation and would revoke the company's license if there was any evidence that laws had been broken.

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