Logo of Phnom Penh Post newspaper Phnom Penh Post - Dredging operations descend on Kampot

Dredging operations descend on Kampot

Dredging operations descend on Kampot

SAND-DREDGING operations are on the rise in Kampot province, according to local fishermen, who say they are concerned about the possible environmental degradation and loss of livelihood stemming from the operations.

Villagers from Traey Koh commune, in Kampong Bay district, say that for the past two months, dredgers belonging to the local Keo Tha company have been plying the Kampot River between areas upstream of Kampot town and the ocean, unloading sand into large container ships moored offshore.

Neak Sen, a representative of 300 fishing families in Traey Koh commune, said 10 dredging boats – each with an estimated capacity of 500 cubic metres – were operating in the river, each extracting two loads per day.

“We are very concerned about our future livelihoods while the operation takes place offshore,” he said, estimating that it stood to impact around 1,000 people in Traey Koh and Chong Kreal communes.

Ly Yen, a 50-year-old Traey Koh fisherman, said the removal of the sand, which he said is intended for export to Singapore, had resulted in riverbank collapses.

“We are concerned about the collapse of the riverbank and declines in our fish and crab catches,” he said.

Hallam Goad, a Kampot-based adviser for housing rights group Sahmakum Teang Tnaut, said the company appears to have “ramped up” its operations in the past 10 days.

The Kampot operation appears to violate a ban on sand exports announced by Prime Minister Hun Sen in May and July this year, due to its adverse environmental effects.

Traey Koh commune chief Pov Son said Keo Tha, which was dredging before Hun Sen’s ban, was given an official dispensation to continue operations last month, “in order to relieve flooding in the town”.

Keo Tha is reputedly owned by a high-ranking official in the Ministry of Defence, said Try Chhoun, a provincial coordinator for local rights group Adhoc.

White gold
The situation in Kampot bears a striking resemblance to that in Koh Kong, where the Hong Kong-based Winton Enterprises, in partnership with the local LYP Group of companies, is extracting thousands of tonnes of sand per week from the province’s coastal estuaries, also for export to Singapore.

The operations have also provoked the ire of local fishermen, who held a series of protests last month demanding a halt to the dredging.

At the time, Pech Siyon, director of Koh Kong’s Department of Industry, Mines and Energy, told the Post that permission for the continuation of the Winton/LYP operation had also been granted to prevent flooding in the provincial town.

Mu Sochua, a Sam Rainsy Party lawmaker who represents Kampot, said she did not know the details of the operations there but said the CPP’s selective application of the ban was unsurprising.

She said monopoly concessions were granted to companies – especially those connected with powerful okhna, or tycoons – who funnelled a portion of their profits back to the party coffers. Such concessions, Mu Sochua said, often failed to take into account the environmental and social impacts.

“These people have depended on fishing for many generations. Pumping out the sand is extremely detrimental to their livelihoods,” she said.

Som Vichet, deputy director of the provincial Department of Industry, Energy and Mines, said he did not wish to discuss the issue over the phone.

MOST VIEWED

  • Negotiations on EBA being held

    In an effort to defuse tensions, a senior government official said Cambodia is negotiating with the European Union (EU) on the Everything But Arms (EBA) trade deal, which allows the Kingdom to export goods to the 28-member bloc tariff-free. The EU notified Cambodia on October 5

  • Ministers to tackle sea pollutants

    Preah Sihanouk provincial authorities and members of local communities have collected 77 tonnes of water hyacinth at a Sihanoukville beach, Preah Sihanouk Provincial Hall spokesperson Or Saroeun said. He told The Post yesterday that the aquatic weeds had been floating along some of the province’s

  • Chinese police escort deported scam suspects

    Ninety-one Chinese nationals accused of extorting money from victims in a Voice over Internet Protocol (VoIP) scam were deported from Phnom Penh International Airport on Monday under the escort of 182 Chinese police personnel. General Department of Immigration head of investigations Ouk Hay Seila told reporters

  • Sam Rainsy, government group set to clash at IPU Geneva meet?

    Opposition figure Sam Rainsy has been invited to speak at the General Assembly of the Inter-Parliamentary Union (IPU) in Geneva, according to a former Cambodia National Rescue Party (CNRP) lawmaker. A government delegation is also set to attend the meeting, a National Assembly press release