Logo of Phnom Penh Post newspaper Phnom Penh Post - Koh Kong sand dredging impact studies due




Koh Kong sand dredging impact studies due

Sand-dredging ships and barges anchor along a section of Koh Kong’s Andoung Tuek River in Botum Sakor district in 2014. Mother Nature
Sand-dredging ships and barges anchor along a section of Koh Kong’s Andoung Tuek River in Botum Sakor district in 2014. Mother Nature

Koh Kong sand dredging impact studies due

The Ministry of Mines and Energy plans to release the environmental impact assessments of two controversial sand-dredging companies in Koh Kong “soon”, ministry spokesman Meng Saktheara said on Monday.

Activists from NGO Mother Nature – three of whom have been arrested for interfering with the companies’ operations – have long claimed that International Rainbow Company Ltd and Direct Access Ltd began work without studying the impact on habitats and fishing communities.

Opposition lawmaker Son Chhay earlier this month requested that the ministry disclose the EIAs as well as government revenue from dredging operations in the province.

Soun Bunsear, head of the ministry’s licensing bureau, yesterday showed the Post an environmental impact assessment for International Rainbow from 2009, as well as a short annual update assessment for Direct Access from 2014. The ministry’s research found that dredging impact would be minimal. Government revenue from the operations wasn’t available.

“Ships can’t cross the [Koh Kong] estuaries because there is too much sand. It also causes floods,” said Bunsear. “The riverbank also collapses because of strong water currents.”

Mother Nature co-founder San Mala delivers a presentation in Phnom Penh on dredging activities in Koh Kong before his arrest last year.
Mother Nature co-founder San Mala delivers a presentation in Phnom Penh on dredging activities in Koh Kong before his arrest last year. Vireak Mai

The Post also saw a 2013 study conducted directly by International Rainbow. Parts of that report admitted that large-scale dredging operations can negatively impact fishing communities, which comprise a big part of the province’s population. Nonetheless, the report concluded that dredging is a net positive for the province.

International Rainbow and Direct Access could not be reached for comment yesterday. Alex Gonzalez-Davidson, the deported founder of Mother Nature, wrote in an email yesterday that EIAs in Cambodia “have always been little more than rubber-stamp exercises where a large bribe is paid by a company in exchange for a document”.

He also cited the opinion of hydrologists and marine biologists interviewed by his NGO, saying that the notion that estuaries can naturally carry too much sand is an “outright fallacy”.

An even greater fallacy is the ministry’s assertion that sand dredging causes minimal harm to the fish and crab populations in the estuaries, he added.

Communities living on Koh Kong’s estuaries have denied that the companies have adequately interviewed them about environmental impacts, according to Mother Nature member Thun Rotha. This contradicts the EIAs’ and Bunsear’s assertion that communities have been consulted.

Prime Minister Hun Sen banned sand dredging in 2011 after public outcry over its apparently harmful social and environmental impacts. Since then, however, a small number of firms have continued to operate under specific licences granted by the Ministry of Mines and Energy.

Son Chhay was not available for comment yesterday.

Additional reporting by Pech Sotheary

MOST VIEWED

  • PM: West unfair to Cambodia

    Prime Minister Hun Sen released a message celebrating the International Day of Peace on Monday, saying that some major powers and western countries had been systemically cooperating to put political pressure on Cambodia as they did in the 1970s and 1980s. Hun Sen said pressuring

  • First ‘mobile kitchen’ in Cambodia enters service

    A catering company recently rolled out Cambodia’s first “mobile kitchen” – a $50,000 container capable of serving up to 200 people at a time. The kitchen is the brainchild of Seng Hok Heng Catering Services. At 4.4m-high, 6.8m-long and 2.4m-wide (expandable to 6.8m), the kitchen is equipped

  • Kingdom, China rebut basis for US sanctions

    The Council for the Development of Cambodia, the Ministry of Foreign Affairs and International Cooperation, and Tianjin Union Investment Development Group Co Ltd (Tianjin) have responded to US sanctions on Union Development Group Co Ltd (UDG), a Chinese-owned company currently developing the sprawling $3.8 billion Dara

  • ‘Bad news is an investor’s best friend’ – unlocking investment potential in Cambodia

    It is time to shop. Economic woes provide good pickings for investors if they know where to look The poem If, written by English Nobel laureate poet and novelist Rudyard Kipling for his son circa 1895, is widely perceived as fatherly advice for John who would

  • Influenza breaks out in eight provinces

    Nearly 600 people have been infected with influenza in eight provinces in the past month, Ministry of Health spokesperson Or Vandine said. The ministry is advising extreme caution. A report released by Vandine on Saturday said the Ministry of Health observed transmissions of influenza between August 15

  • PM requests Russia’s Covid vaccine

    Prime Minister Hun Sen has requested that Russia provide Cambodia with its Covid-19 vaccine after the former announced it planned on mass vaccinating its population next month. The request came on Thursday through the prime minister’s Facebook page as he met with Anatoly Borovik,