Local authorities in Banteay Meanchey province’s Preah Netr Preah district shut down another illegal sand-dredging operation on Tuesday as unlicensed small-scale sand mining continues to be a problem throughout the country, according to officials and civil society groups.
Adhoc, acting on behalf of a group of 48 villagers in Teuk Chor commune, earlier this week made an official complaint about an informal family-run operation that collapsed a riverbank and dirtied the villagers’ drinking water.
“I heard that the people were going to file a complaint,” said deputy commune chief Hul Kimthon. “So the following evening, I went to tell the guy who did the sand dredging to stop.”
The man complied with the order, she said. Kimthon said that dredging was taking place at “plenty” of other locations in the province, especially in Kralahn district, “but it seems that nobody cares about it”.
A police officer and a commune chief from Kralanh confirmed that Department of Environment officials shut down multiple similar dredging operations in the district last year.
Dith Tina, a secretary of state at the Ministry of Mines and Energy, yesterday said that between April 2015, when a hotline was introduced, and the end of the year, it had received more than 60 complaints.
Complaints were continuing to roll in, though slower than last year, said Tina. Many of them had ended up being false alarms, but he urged the citizens to keep reporting. “[Illegal] dredging is still happening.”
However, others are sceptical of the government’s enforcement ability. Alex Gonzalez-Davidson, the deported founder of NGO Mother Nature, said he had seen evidence of greater crackdowns on sand mining, but only on those who did not have powerful connections.
Latt Ky, head of Adhoc’s land program, said he saw a growing volume of sand being trucked to Thailand in the dead of night.
Savin Rattanak, a teacher in Koh Kong’s Tatay Krom commune, said he had seen “many” illegal dredging machines and lost some of his land to one.
“I dare not complain to the commune chief, because the land of the commune clerk was eaten too, but he ignored it,” said Rattanak. The commune chief declined to comment.
Authorities in Kandal on March 4 stopped two businessmen from digging up soil, which caused local wells to run dry. Villagers said that other hole-diggers were continuing.
In January, the Apsara Authority stopped a businessman from digging up soil around the Angkor temple complex.