Logo of Phnom Penh Post newspaper Phnom Penh Post - Hun Sen announces ban on sand exports

Hun Sen announces ban on sand exports

Hun Sen announces ban on sand exports

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090511_02.jpg

Cites negative environmental effects on rivers, marine areas.

Photo by:
HENG CHIVOAN

A local sand-dredging firm extracts sand from the bed of the Tonle Bassac river Sunday. 

PRIME Minister Hun Sen has announced a ban on the export of sand abroad, citing the environmental effects of sand dredging on the Kingdom's rivers, estuaries and marine areas.

"In order to protect the stability of the natural environments of both rivers and marine areas, all kinds of sand-dredging businesses throughout Cambodia have to stop exporting sand outside the country," the Prime Minister stated in a letter dated Friday.

Only sand-dredging businesses that serve local demand will be allowed to continue their operations, Hun Sen said, as well as areas where sand build-ups are obstructing waterways.

He also announced a blanket ban on marine dredging, citing its negative environmental effects, but said an exception would be made where sand gathered and replenished itself naturally.

Hun Sen ordered all involved ministries - including the ministries of Environment; Water Resources and Meteorology; and Industry, Mines and Energy - to take action to implement the ban.

He also ordered the country's Sand Resource Management Committee to review immediately sand dredging businesses operating in Cambodia and to report back to him on the extent and nature of their operations.

Demand for sand

River and marine sand dredging, much of it for export to Singapore, Thailand and Vietnam, has increased significantly in Cambodia in the past year.

In March, the Post reported the Hong Kong-based Winton Enterprises Co Ltd was removing thousands of tons of sand each week from estuaries in Koh Kong province, which environmentalists said was having severe effects on the local environment.

Recent months have also seen an increase in complaints by villagers whose houses and farmland have been lost to unseasonable riverbank collapses that many claim have resulted from dredging operations.

Senior CPP lawmaker Cheam Yeap confirmed the decision to ban the practice was made after people protested about the impact of sand dredging on the local environment.

"Due to some local protests ... Prime Minister Hun Sen is closing the sand-dredging businesses," he said, adding that such companies would remain in operation "only in places where it does not impact the people's interest".

Sam Rainsy Party lawmaker Yim Sovann said his party had sent many letters to the government raising concerns about the impact of sand-dredging operations on the livelihood of people living along the rivers.

"The only people who benefit from the sand-dredging businesses are businessmen and corrupt officials, while only the people suffer the impacts," he said, adding that he supported the prime minister's ban.   

"This is a lesson the government should bear in mind: Before offering investments to any company, they have to strictly study the impact on the environment and the livelihood of the people," Yim Sovann said.

Mao Hak, director of the Department of Hydrology and River Works at the Ministry of Water Resources and Meteorology, said enforcement of the ban began immediately following the prime minister's order.

Mao Hak, who is also a member of the Sand Resource Management Committee, said a total of 124 dredging companies were operating in Cambodia, and that some had received licences to export sand. But he said none of the companies would stop dredging sand altogether.

"Those companies still continue dredging sand to supply local demand," he said. "We have just banned them from exporting sand outside the country."

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