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Sand-dredging spat resolved

A DISPUTE over a sand-dredging operation on the Mekong River in Kandal province’s Khsach Kandal district was resolved Sunday after the company operating the dredging boats agreed to work within areas designated by experts from the Ministry of Water Resources and Meteorology, officials said.

Khsach Kandal Deputy Governor Khieu Soknath said that officials from the Sam Chetra Sand Dredging Co made the promise during a meeting with ministry officials and local community representatives.

But he said the company denied villagers’ claims that the dredgers were operating outside of the permitted areas, threatening the collapse of riverbanks and the loss of village farmland.

“The company has denied allegations that it has operated anarchically outside its permit area over the past month,” he said.

On Sunday, specialists from the Ministry of Water Resources placed plastic beacons on the river to mark the permitted dredging area, and the company promised to operate within its limits and cease nighttime dredging in line with villagers’ requests, Khieu Soknath said.

In a report last month, London-based watchdog Global Witness argued that despite a sand-export ban ordered by Prime Minister Hun Sen in May last year, dredging operations continue to pose environmental threats in the country’s rivers and marine areas.

But Khsach Kandal district Governor Kong Sophon said that the number of dredging companies operating on the Mekong has dropped drastically since Hun Sen’s ban.

Chan Yutha, chief of cabinet at the Ministry of Water Resources, said that about 20 companies have received licences to dredge sand in the Mekong River, and that most adhered to government regulations.

“We have established an intervention team in order to crack down on illegal sand dredging,” he said.

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