Cambodia bans sale of sand to Singapore

Cambodia bans sale of sand to Singapore”

Cambodian Mines and Energy minister Suy Sem announced the ban on July 10 to replace a temporary one issued previous 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.

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.

"There has been such a ban in recent years, but they (companies) still operated and exported", said Meng Heng, from the environmental group Mother Nature.

Singapore's Ministry of National Development (MND) said in January the Republic stopped importing sand from Cambodia after the ban took effect in November past year. The ban, however, excludes the export of silica, a type of sand used in making glass, he reported.

"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 told AFP.

Singapore was Cambodia's top market for sand until past year when the temporary ban came into force. It had imported some 16 million tonnes of sand since 2007. It was not clear why there was such a big difference between the two sets of figures.

The new directive comes after Phnom Penh temporarily suspended sand exports in November following controversy over large discrepencies in Cambodian and Singapore trade records for how much of the commodity was being shipped. But in January, it said Singapore had ceased importing sand from its neighbour since last November in compliance with the ban then.

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

The MND said then that the Government does not condone the smuggling of sand or the use of forged export permits - accusations levelled at it by Cambodian environmentalists.

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

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