Locals in Kandal province’s Sa’ang district are worried that renewed sand dredging will damage their land as the Ministry of Mines and Energy gears up to hand out licences that will make the practice legal once more.
“If the sand dredging is allowed to continuously happen haphazardly like this, where can I live when the size of my land is so small?” asked Horn Eng, 51.
Eng was speaking at a public forum held by the ministry in the district yesterday that attracted a crowd of about 500 people.
Locals have long complained of dredging’s destructive effects to their homes and farmland, which at times have crumbled into the water as boats suck sand from the riverbanks.
The ministry says that things will be different this time.
Heng Chanthuon, undersecretary of state at Ministry of Mines and Energy, said that based on a government study, the river had become too shallow and required its bed to be cleared by dredgers.
However, dredging boats will only be allowed to operate within a 50-metre range of the river’s centre.
“I am really emotional after listening to Horn Eng. Those anarchic sand dredgers think only about their profits”, said Chanthuon.
The ministry announced reforms of the much-criticised sector earlier this year, temporarily halting the granting of new licenses while environmental impact studies were undertaken.