Phnom Penh municipal governor Pa Socheatvong has ordered a complete suspension of all sand-dredging activities while the municipality investigates whether the companies are operating illegally, a spokesman said.
The order came during a meeting yesterday between the governor and his subordinates, City Hall spokesman Long Dimanche said.
“His Excellency raised the case and ordered them to urgently suspend [dredging] in order to check the companies’ business licenses,” Dimanche told the Post. “Previously, there has been anarchic sand dredging, but some companies do have licenses.”
Dredging has remained a controversial business in Cambodia, with the government maintaining it’s necessary for protecting waterways and environmental groups saying it is done almost exclusively for profit and is hugely detrimental to ecosystems.
In Phnom Penh, a number of riverbanks in Meanchey and Russei Keo districts have collapsed in recent years, sending homes toppling into the Mekong and causing severe structural damage. Village representatives have frequently fingered dredging as the cause.
Kuoch Chamroeun, Meanchey district governor, said approximately five or six dredging companies operated in his district, but that all were licensed.
Nao Thuok, director-general of the fisheries administration, said that dredging during the spawning season can have some impact on species development, but generally, “it does not impact it seriously”.