Dredging in Kampot has escalated in the face of community concerns, with more boats now mining sand right in front of the provincial capital and dumping vast amounts of it directly outside the provincial land management authority.
The Post counted a total of 17 boats hauling loads of sand on the Kampong Bay estuary on Saturday, up from seven three weeks ago, in an operation that villagers and tourism operators complain is being conducted with no community consultation and no disclosure of where the profits are going.
Provincial officials have refused to reveal which companies are involved or where the sand is going, but documents obtained by the Post reveal that at least one company, Thaknin Tharith, is licensed to dredge in the area for export.
Sao Sambo, a Kampot provincial council member, confirmed yesterday that sand outside the provincial land management authority would also be used for a large construction project in the area.
“A five-star hotel has been planned for construction in Kampot town, and sand is needed to fill the land to build it,” he said, adding he did not know clearly which company was building this.
Another 12 large barges loaded to the brim with sand were docked just outside Kampot town on Saturday.
Kampot provincial governor Khoy Khun Hour said yesterday that alluvial sands had accumulated so much at some points in the estuary that it had become knee-deep in certain places – necessitating dredging.
“The purpose of sand dredging is to make the river deeper and deeper, because right now it is shallow,” he said before hanging up on a reporter.
Community concerns centre largely around dredging that is conducted dangerously close to river banks, which residents from some of the area’s fishing villages claim has caused them to collapse.
A representative of the guesthouse Villa Vedici, who declined to be named, said a crane had begun operating yesterday about five metres from the bank right outside his property.
“It is true that a lot of the parts of the river are shallow, and as long as they dredge with a good policy and use the revenues in a transparent way and don’t over do it I wouldn’t object,” he said.
“[But] the community is not consulted, not informed. No one knows how much they are going to dredge, that’s the big thing.”
Hugh Munro, the owner of Bodhi Villa, a guesthouse located on the estuary, said he also acknowledged there were legitimate reasons for dredging, but just wanted to see some regulation and consultation.
“If they simply respected the environment, everyone would shut up. Without any rules, they [the dredging companies] are going to go as hard as they can,” he said.
Tourist Sonny Imbaraj said the dredging barges were “a bloody eyesore”.