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Dredging licences up for grabs

Dredging licences up for grabs

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A sand dredging boat pours sand onto a barge in the Mekong near Phnom Penh in June. Photograph: Hong Menea/Phnom Penh Post

The government has granted contracts to three unnamed private companies to invest in dredging operations along parts of the Mekong and Tonle Sap rivers, but is withholding the companies’ names and information on the specific areas for the large-scale projects.

Lim Kean Hor, the Minister of Water Resources and Meteorology, told the Post yesterday that nine companies placed bids on the projects and three were selected.

Local businesses, environmental groups and communities have resisted river dredging projects, claiming they negatively erode riverbanks and riverbeds

Last month residents of Kien Svay district’s Koh Prak village said that a length of shoreline more than 500 metres long and five metres wide crumbled into the river, swallowing up and threatening homes nearby.

But Kean Hor said the ministry would play a larger regulatory role in these new ventures.

“I believe there won’t be any more problems because doing it like this, the Ministry of Water Resources is a controller of the technique,” Kean Hor said. “If [the companies] do not listen [to us] we will take the money,” he said, referring to deposits required when submitting a bid.

Representatives of environmental groups contacted by the Post yesterday had not heard about the licences and said they could not comment.

Son Chhay, an opposition Sam Rainsy Party lawmaker who follows environmental issues, said that before the government allows any company to dredge it must perform environmental impact assessments through an independent committee.

To contact the reporter on this story: Meas Sokchea at [email protected]

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