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Boats seized in dredging crackdown

Dredging equipment pumps sand out of the Mekong River in Phnom Penh’s Daun Penh district
Dredging equipment pumps sand out of the Mekong River in Phnom Penh’s Daun Penh district last month. PHA LINA

Boats seized in dredging crackdown

More than 100 sand-pumping systems and 40 boats have been impounded by the Kandal provincial Department of Water Resources and Meteorology in order to prevent riverbank collapse as water levels continue to rise.

Chun Penglong, the provincial department director, told the Post yesterday that navy police and the sand management control department spent two days confiscating machines and boats believed to be unlicensed.

“Currently, the sand transporters and sand-pumping systems have been impounded temporarily at the Phnom Penh national navy police base in order to check and verify the licence and inform the machines’ owners to stop for a moment while the water level continues to increase,” he said.

When done properly and in approved areas, river dredging has no impact, Penglong said, but those running unlicensed pumps often set up in shallow areas, destabilising the riverbank.

“Obviously, some companies have done the business not in accordance with the technical standard that our experts have introduced to them, and this is the reason that can cause the bank to collapse and affect both the land and houses located along the river,” he said.

In August, Phnom Penh municipal authorities announced a sweeping inspection into dredging boats, saying they would close any operations without proper documentation.

The director of the department of hydrology and river works, Mao Hak, said the inspection of dredging operations across the country remained ongoing.

Several riverbanks in Phnom Penh and Kandal have collapsed in recent years, with residents frequently pointing to rampant sand dredging in the Mekong and Tonle Bassac rivers.

Deputy Lvea Em district police chief, Phorn Sreng, said unlicensed dredging operations had wreaked havoc in his district.

“In Koh Reah commune, we usually see the shore falling when the water recedes. The collapse is the result of sand pumping near the riverbank during the flood season.”

Though some companies stopped and moved out when they received word of the impending raid, he said, police were able to seize the bulk of them.

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