11 November 2009

Impact of sand extraction in Cambodia and Vietnam

The sand is exported mainly to Singapore for "sea encroachment projects". Sand extraction is ostensibly done to relieve flooding and to deepen waterways for shipping, and the sand exported. But the extensive extraction is impacting locals in Cambodia and Vietnam.
Pasir Panjang reclamation from Sentosa shore
Sand piled high at the Pasir Panjang Container terminal project, as at 4 Nov 09.

Sand dredging in a province of Cambodia is expected to impact "around 1,000 people" in the communes there, said a representative. The sand is intended for export to Singapore and extraction had resulted in riverbank collapses. "We are concerned about the collapse of the riverbank and declines in our fish and crab catches".

Although Prime Minister Hun Sen banned sand exports in May and July this year due to the adverse environmental effects, the operations in this province continues and operations was ramped up in the past 10 days. Apparently, the operations is owned by a high-ranking official in the Ministry of Defence and an official dispensation was granted to continue operations last month "in order to relieve flooding in the town".

The situation bears a striking resemblance to that in another provice, where a Hong Kong-based company was extracting thousands of tonnes of sand per week from the province’s coastal estuaries, also for export to Singapore. The operations have also provoked the ire of local fishermen, who held a series of protests last month demanding a halt to the dredging. Permission was also granted for to continue sand extraction to prevent flooding in the provincial town. "These people have depended on fishing for many generations. Pumping out the sand is extremely detrimental to their livelihoods" said a representative there.

Meanwhile in Vietnam, sand barges are held in port due to uncertainty about implementation of sand export rules. Some of the sand is from dredging works allowed by many provinces, and the sand dredging companies were counting on selling the sand as compensation.

According to the report "This sand is not used in construction. It is exported, mainly to Singapore, to serve sea encroachment projects."

Update: on 20 Nov 09 it was reported that the Vietnamese authorities allowed exports of sand to continue until Jun 2010.

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