RULING party senator Ly Yong Phat has been ordered to study the environmental impacts of his controversial sand dredging operation in Koh Kong province by the Ministry of Water Resources, an official said yesterday.
The order comes after Prime Minster Hun Sen warned last week the practice had to be strictly monitored or it could devastate Cambodia’s islands and beaches. He demanded a review of all marine dredging operations.
Mao Hak, director of rivers at the Ministry of Water Resources, said yesterday a ministry committee had taken action and decided that tycoon Ly Yong Phat must re-evaluate the social and environmental consequences of his dredging operation on the Tatai river.
“We did not review the whole country, we just reviewed dredging activities that affected livelihoods and which destroy beaches,” he said.
Ly Yong Phat’s LYP Group was awarded a licence to dredge sand at seven different sites on Koh Kong’s Tatai river totalling more than 32 square kilometres last September.
After sand dredging of “unprecedented scale” commenced in April this year, tourism operators and community representatives raised concerns the operations were decimating the local environment, in turn ruining business and the livelihoods of local villages.
Last week, Global Witness issued a press statement warning Cambodia must buck a “long history of broken promises” in the resources sector and follow up Prime Minister Hun Sen’s call to regulate sand dredging with concrete action.
“So if the government is serious about clamping down on the environmental problems caused by the dredging trade, then this is excellent news,” the statement said.
François Lamontagne, manager of the 4 RIVERS FLOATING LODGE resort on the Tatai river, yesterday welcomed the premier’s remarks and said Ly Yong Phat appeared to have stuck to conditions negotiated with local business owners and community representatives during a meeting last week.
They will only dredge between 8am and 6pm and there will be an end to dumping oil in the river, he said.
“We are seeing progress, for now,” he said. “We see cranes leaving so it’s a good time for us but to what extent or how many companies are here, it’s a little bit of a mystery.” Ly Yong Phat could not be reached for comment.