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Sand exports surge on Cambodia ban

Written By vibykhmer on Monday, August 31, 2009 | 6:07 AM

Workers remove sand from the Mekong River. The surge in dredging in the Mekong Delta has caused landslides along the rivers and altered river flows. — VNA/VNS Photo Ngo Lich

HCM CITY — Export of sand mined from rivers in the Cuu Long (Mekong) Delta to Singapore has reached unprecedented levels in recent months, causing landslides along the rivers and altering their flows.

In the first half it almost topped 7 million tonnes against 1.1 million tonnes in the whole of last year, according to an official from the local Department of Customs, who estimated the figure to cross 10 million tonnes this year.

The sharp increase was caused by a ban on sand export imposed by the Cambodian Government three months ago to ensure domestic supply and protect the environment.

Nguyen The Hung of the Can Tho Sand Exploitation Enterprise said the price of sand, which used to be VND15,000 to VND17,000 per cubic metre before the Cambodian ban, had gone up to VND40,000 now.

With high profits involved, authorities are finding it difficult to curb sand mining in the Tien and Hau Rivers, which has reached alarming levels.

Vu Duc Hung, a waterway police official in Can Tho, said the Hau had been overwhelmed by barges.

With sand around the rivers taken away, landslides have become a serious threat. Some of the smaller rivers also face the threat of having their flows altered.

Nguyen Minh Thong, deputy head of the Can Tho Department of Customs, said the Government’s Instruction No 29 issued last October temporarily curbed the sand export.

But contracts signed before November 30, 2008, continue to be implemented.

The instruction does not have a deadline for completing the contracts, he said, besides which many exporters illicitly change the dates on their contracts.

Thong called on the Government to regulate the sand exploitation and trading.

Nguyen Thanh Son, vice chairman of the Can Tho People’s Committee, agreed with him, saying there was a need to review the sand trade since it damages the environment. — VNS


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