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Mixed feelings toward dredging-fuelled fund

Sand dredgers near Koh Sralav village in Koh Kong.
Sand dredgers near Koh Sralav village in Koh Kong. Athena Zelandonii

Mixed feelings toward dredging-fuelled fund

Minister of Mines and Energy Suy Sem yesterday announced in Koh Kong province the creation of a community fund of nearly $40,000 for Koh Sralao village, according to a ministry official, who said the funds came from a 2-cent-per-cubic-metre levy imposed on sand dredgers in the area.

Hing Tun, chief of the ministry’s mine construction department, said the funds had been collected between 2007 and 2015, and that villagers could propose projects such as roads and water systems “and the ministry will drop the funds if the ministry has money”.

“Villagers are happy to have this fund; they can get roads and travel easily – they congratulate this plan,” he said, insisting that dredging activities in the area had now ceased.

Local resident Ek Sophal, who attended the event where the fund was announced, said the figure given was just over $37,000, and contested Tun’s assertion that dredging had stopped, saying it still continued under cover of nightfall.

She added that the dredging had had a major impact on the villagers, most of them fishermen, who saw their catches dwindle with the dredgers’ arrival.

“We welcome any development plan in our community, but the development plan must not be in exchange for our sand.” she said.

Cambodia’s sand industry has become a source of controversy in recent weeks, with civil society pointing to massive discrepancies between the Kingdom’s reported exports of sand to Singapore and the island nation’s recorded imports, prompting accusations of mismanagement and corruption.

Based on the ministry’s proclaimed 2-cent-per-cubic metre levy, the sand haul from Koh Sralao would total more than 1.8 million cubic metres – or approximately 2.7 million tonnes, nearly all of Cambodia’s reported exports to Singapore between 2007 and 2015. Singapore, by contrast, reports importing 72.7 million tonnes of Cambodian sand during the same period.

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