Cambodia Bans Exports of Two Types of Sand From Koh Kong

Radio Free Asia 11 Jul 17;

Cambodia’s government has permanently banned exports of sand for construction and sand mud from Koh Kong province amid impact concerns, but an environmental group on Tuesday urged it to end the export of all types of sand and demanded greater transparency for the industry’s practices.

Mines and Energy minister Suy Sem announced the ban on July 10 to replace a temporary one issued last year after a group of watchdog organizations demanded a reexamination of the environmental and social impact assessments of dredging in the province, ministry spokesperson Meng Saktheara told RFA’s Khmer Service on Tuesday.

“Large-scale sand export businesses were previously granted licenses in [Koh Kong province] … so the ministry decided to permanently place a ban on such sand exports to end the practice,” he said.

Meng Saktheara confirmed that the new ban only covers sand for construction and sand mud export businesses in Koh Kong province.

Any company in possession of a business license for exporting the two types of sand must immediately terminate its activities, he added.

Meanwhile, any company licensed to mine silica, used for making glass, may continue to do so, Meng Saktheara said, as this kind of sand “falls under a separate provision from sand for construction and sand mud.”

The Ministry of Mines and Energy banned sand exports in November 2016 amid public outrage over large inconsistencies between Cambodia’s recorded sand exports and Singapore’s recorded sand imports from Cambodia, but had recently said that silica sand was not part of the ban.

Call for total ban

Alejandro Gonzalez-Davidson, director of the NGO Mother Nature Cambodia, told RFA Tuesday that the livelihoods of residents in Koh Kong will continue to be negatively impacted until all sand—including silica—is included in the export ban and dredging is stopped.

“Sand has been dredged using outdated methods for the past several years [affecting local waterways], and we have seen residents become increasingly destitute,” said the Spanish environmentalist, who was expelled from Cambodia in February 2015 after leading a campaign against a controversial dam and placed on a blacklist that prevents his return to the country.

“[The government] would do better to ban all kinds of sand dredging activities and should stop employing the pretext of dredging to restore water channels for local residents—no one can accept such pretext.”

Additionally, Gonzalez-Davidson said, authorities should make public its data on industry activities to ensure that residents are aware of how much sand has been dredged from the region and how companies have profited.

“The government should be more transparent and accountable to Cambodian citizens in regard to the amount of sand being exported overseas over the past several years, and how much money has been taxed,” he said.

In mid-June, opposition Cambodia National Rescue Party (CNRP) lawmaker and vice-chairman of parliament’s Economy, Finance, Banking and Audit Commission Son Chhay requested that Mines and Energy minister Suy Sem disclose all information and official documents related to Cambodia’s silica exports, but has yet to receive a response.

Reported by Chandara Yang for RFA’s Khmer Service. Translated by Sovannarith Keo. Written in English by Joshua Lipes.


Koh Kong sand exports permanently banned after volume discrepancies
Yesenia Amaro and Phak Seangly Phnom Penh Post 12 Jul 17;

The Ministry of Mines and Energy has permanently banned sand exports from Koh Kong province – eight months after it imposed a temporary ban following controversy over large discrepancies found in sand export figures to Singapore.

Mines Minister Suy Sem on Monday signed a prakas and set of guidelines detailing the changes, though activists and locals remained sceptical yesterday that the rules would prevent irregular export of sand overseas.

According to the documents, dated Monday, the ministry has “completely halted the export of all kinds of construction sand and mud sand from Koh Kong province to foreign countries”.

According to Meng Saktheara, secretary of state and spokesman for the Ministry of Mines and Energy, the previous temporary measure contained a loophole that allowed exporters to continue dredging as long as they maintained they were not exporting. The new permanent measure, he said, closes the loophole by invalidating all current licences for dredging for export in Koh Kong.

“It basically bans all dredging for export purposes, which means that all existing licences will be deemed invalid if they are related to exports,” he said.

Any company wishing to dredge in Koh Kong for domestic purposes will have to submit a new application, and will have to move to certain zones that have been designated by the ministry for small-scale sand-dredging operations only, Saktheara said.

The ministry also has designated several “red zones” where no sand dredging will be allowed, he added.

On Monday, an activist claimed a company had begun dredging in the Tatai River in front of a sand processing facility that is currently under construction. This area would be inside of the “red zone” under the new guidelines.

Two companies, Udom Seima Peanich Industry & Mines Co Ltd and SCTWN Development Co Ltd, were given approval by authorities, including the Ministry of Environment, on January 11 to conduct environmental impact assessments for sand dredging in Trapaing Roung and Tatay Krom communes.

“[Companies] will have to stop all current operations in the area,” Saktheara said.

The sand washing facility, meanwhile, would need to be removed, and because the equipment would be considered “large scale”, it couldn’t be reinstalled in the safe zones for small scale operations, he added.

Sao Sopheap, spokesman for the Ministry of Environment, said yesterday morning, before the new ban had been announced, that SCTWN Development Co Ltd had requested permission from the ministry to install the facility.

“We have no objection to establish a sand washing station or facility,” he said, adding that Environment Minister Say Sam Al had requested full environmental impact assessments be conducted. He could not be reached for further comment following the announcement of the ban.

Sopheap said the company had requested permission to dredge for domestic use, but was still waiting for a licence from the Ministry of Mines and Energy.

According to the guidelines, companies will only be allowed to operate small-scale-dredging operations in five zones on the Tatai, Trapaing Roung and Sre Ambel rivers.

These operations would not be able to dredge more than 50 cubic metres of sand per day, and must not transport more than 20 cubic metres at a time.

Saktheara said the permanent ban only applies to Koh Kong, as officials had conducted a reassessment there of environmental and social impacts after concerns were raised by civil society.

“Results of the assessment indicate significant impact on the ecology and local communities if large-scale sand dredging continues operating,” he said. “That’s why we decided to issue this.”

Saktheara explained that the ministry will have to study other areas as well.

“Companies can still apply [for export licences in other rivers], but it doesn’t mean they will get it,” he said.

The ministry will hold a workshop on July 21 to inform local authorities how to implement the new measures, he said.

Meng Heng, an activist with Mother Nature, welcomed the announcement, but remained unconvinced it would work.

He said there have been several directives from the ministry, and yet violations continue to take place by companies either secretly operating, or through alleged government collusion. “In reality, the companies still operate,” he said. “We want the ministry to punish the illegal companies.”

Heng pointed to SCTWN company as a potential example of what companies can still get away with. “We wonder why the ministry issued the announcement, but why the construction of the facility is almost completed?” he asked. He added that he would like to see a nationwide ban that also includes silica sand, which was recently revealed to be exempt from the ban.


Cambodia bans sand exports after environmental group pressure
Today Online 12 Jul 17;

PHNOM PENH — Cambodia has banned all sand exports on environmental grounds, the Ministry of Mines and Energy said on Wednesday (July 12), officially ending the sale of sand to Singapore which has for years used it to reclaim land along its coasts.

The ministry said most of Cambodia’s sand had gone towards the expansion of the island city-state of Singapore, and it would now have to look for other sources.

A ministry spokesman, Meng Saktheara, said the government was responding to the concerns of the campaigners and it also agreed that large-scale sand mining was indeed damaging.

Environmental groups have been pressing the government to stop the trade, saying the digging and dredging of sand has had a serious impact on coastal ecosystems and surrounding land.

“Their worries are right that the risks are massive so the ministry decided to ban sand exports and large-scale sand dredging,” Mr Meng Saktheara told Reuters.

He said Singapore was Cambodia’s top market for sand until last year when the temporary ban came into force.

Singapore’s Ministry of National Development (MND) said in January the Republic stopped importing sand from Cambodia after the ban took effect in November last year.

The MND had stressed that Singapore sets strict criteria for imports of sand, including on environmental protection, but reiterated that sand is imported on a commercial basis and it is the contractors who must meet the criteria. It also said that Singapore has not come across any illegal shipments of sand into the country.

In November, Cambodian authorities temporarily halted sand exports by companies that hold valid permits after local activists found discrepancies in the export and import trade data from the United Nations.

The data showed that Singapore reported 73.6 million tonnes in sand imports from Cambodia since 2007. Yet Mr Meng Saktheara said some 16 million tonnes left for Singapore during the same period.

It was not clear why there was such a big difference between the official government figure for exports to Singapore since 2007 and the UN figure.

The extraction and export of Cambodian sand has been controversial, as firms allegedly extract sand in defiance of quotas, destroying coastal mangrove systems in the process and affecting the livelihoods of local fishing communities.

Aside from Cambodia, Singapore also imports sand from the Philippines and Myanmar, according to media reports.

Some environmental groups remained sceptical about the ban being properly enforced.

“Sand is being dredged ... are we sure that sand is not being exported?” asked Mr Lim Kimsor, an activist with the group Mother Nature. AGENCIES

Cambodia bans sand exports after environmental group pressure
Prak Chan Thul Reuters 12 Jul 17;

PHNOM PENH (Reuters) - Cambodia has banned all sand exports on environmental grounds, the Ministry of Mines and Energy said on Wednesday, officially ending the sale of sand to Singapore which has for years used it to reclaim land along its coasts.

The ministry said most of Cambodia's sand had gone toward the expansion of the island city-state of Singapore, and it would now have to look for other sources.

Environmental groups have been pressing the government to stop the trade, saying the digging and dredging of sand has had a serious impact on coastal ecosystems and surrounding land.

Groups have complained that sand in recent months has been exported illegally following a temporary ban in November 2016.

A ministry spokesman, Meng Saktheara, said the government was responding to the concerns of the campaigners and it also agreed that large-scale sand mining was indeed damaging.

"Their worries are right that the risks are massive so the ministry decided to ban sand exports and large-scale sand dredging," Meng Saktheara told Reuters.

Meng Saktheara said Singapore was Cambodia's top market for sand until last year when the temporary ban came into force, and had it imported some 16 million tonnes of sand since 2007.

U.N. trade data released last year showed that Singapore had imported more than 72 million tonnes of sand, worth more than $740 million, from Cambodia since 2007.

It was not clear why there was such a big difference between the official government figure for exports to Singapore since 2007 and the U.N. figure.

Singapore's embassy in Phnom Penh did not immediately respond to a request for comment.

Some environmental groups remained skeptical about the ban being properly enforced.

"Sand is being dredged ... are we sure that sand is not being exported?" asked Lim Kimsor, an activist with the group Mother Nature.

Editing by Amy Sawitta Lefevre, Robert Birsel


Cambodia bans sand exports permanently
BBC 13 Jul 17;

Cambodia has permanently banned sand exports, officially ending sales to Singapore which has used it for years as part of its land reclamation.

Environmental groups said digging and dredging has had a serious impact on coastal ecosystems.

A temporary ban was imposed late last year, but campaigners allege dredging has continued.

Singapore has imported more than 72 million tonnes of sand from Cambodia since 2007, according to UN figures.

That figure conflicts with the Cambodian government's numbers, which say Singapore imported just 16 million tonnes in the period.

Essential for reclamation

Singapore has expanded its landmass by more than 20% since its independence in 1965, and considers reclamation a key strategy for accommodating a growing population.

Sand is essential to reclamation, but on recent projects Singapore has begun experimenting with techniques that would require less sand.

The country's reclamation projects are built by private contractors, who must adhere to sand import rules that include environmental protection measures.

'Massive risks'

A spokesman for Cambodia's Ministry of Mines and Energy, Meng Saktheara, said the new, permanent ban was in response to environmental concerns.

"Their worries are right that the risks are massive, so the ministry decided to ban sand exports and large-scale sand dredging," he said.

Other countries have previously imposed various types of sand export bans.

Malaysia imposed a ban on exports in 1997, while Indonesia announced a ban on exporting land sand to Singapore in 2007.

'Make a difference'

Environment groups are hopeful that the ban will put a stop to the trade, which they say has been causing environmental damage for years.

"I think it will make a difference. It will not be easy for the sand mining companies to continue exporting," said Alejandro Gonzalez-Davidson, an activist with the group Mother Nature.

Media and activist attention on the trade would now make it difficult for companies to flout the rules, he added.


Cambodia bans exports of coastal sand, mainly to Singapore
AFP AsiaOne 14 Jul 17;

Phnom Penh - Cambodia has outlawed sand exports from a coastal region where it has been primarily funnelled in huge quantities to Singapore, a move met with scepticism from activists who said previous bans on the destructive industry had failed to take root.

Environmental groups have long accused Cambodia of running damaging and corrupt sand dredging operations along the southwest coast and the Mekong river.


Most of the sand has been shipped to Singapore to fuel the wealthy city-state's rapid expansion - a resource plunder that activists say has devastated local Cambodian communities and ecosystems.

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The new decree, issued on July 10, bars all exports of "construction sand and mud sand" from Koh Kong province to overseas but stops short of outlawing domestic sales.

It was issued in response to environmental concerns, said Meng Saktheara, a spokesman for Cambodia's mining and energy ministry.

"If we continue to allow large-scale sand dredging (in Koh Kong) for exports, it would hugely affect the natural environment and local communities," he said.

Environmental activists welcomed the move but expressed doubt it would fully halt a trade that has survived previous bans.

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