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Group calls for S’pore to act on sand imports

Group calls for S’pore to act on sand imports

SINGAPORE should address the negative environmental impacts of its sand trade with Cambodia as it prepares to host an international summit on sustainable urban development, global corruption watchdog Global Witness said.

Starting Tuesday, Singapore will host the World Cities Summit, a four-day urban development conference that will focus on “building liveable and sustainable communities”.

In a statement to be issued today, the London-based advocacy group said continued inaction with regard to its sand imports from Cambodia could undermine its credibility as host of the summit.

“Singapore is in danger of appearing hypocritical as it promotes its commitment to sustainability while simultaneously driving demand in an industry that is wreaking havoc on Cambodia’s coastal ecosystems,” Global Witness campaigner George Boden said in the statement.

Last month, Global Witness issued a report that said sand imports from Cambodia to Singapore had spiked despite a ban announced by Prime Minister Hun Sen in May last year.

The report estimated that as much as 796,000 tonnes of sand was being removed each month from Koh Kong province, the epicentre of a sand trade worth an estimated US$248 million annually in Singapore.

Senior CPP lawmaker Cheam Yeap said Sunday that he regretted Global Witness’s attacks on the government, repeating government claims that the group’s criticism is “baseless”.

“As Prime Minister Hun Sen has ordered, any sand-dredging company that operates and causes environmental damage to the ocean will not be allowed and will be completely banned from exporting,” he said.

Singapore’s Ministry of Foreign Affairs and Ministry of National Development (MND) did not respond to queries as of press time. But on May 11 the MND issued a statement that the city-state “does not condone the illegal export or smuggling of sand, or any extraction of sand that is in breach of the source countries’ laws”.

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