The Ministry of Water Resources impounded five barges in Kandal province on Saturday for flouting a government ban on sand dredging on the Mekong River, an official said Sunday.
Chan Youttha, cabinet chief for Water Resources Minister Lim Kean Hor, said the minister personally led a government delegation to the dredging sites in Sa’ang district to enforce a ban on sand dredging along the Mekong and Tonle Sap rivers that took effect on October 15.
“The minister suspended the anarchic sand pumping and we confiscated five barges and three plastic pipes in accordance with the law,” he said. “We took action after receiving information from local authorities.”
District governor Khim Chankiri said he informed the ministry of the dredging after it started to increase about a month ago.
In a separate case, about 50 residents of Kandal’s Khsach Kandal district gathered along the banks of the Mekong yesterday to protest against five other barges also pumping sand in an apparent violation of the government ban.
Mao Naroath, one of the protesters, said the barges arrived in Prek Ampil commune about two weeks ago.
“We had a small protest today, but if local authorities do not take action for us the people will hold a big protest against the sand dredging because it will cause the riverbank to collapse since they do it about 50 meters from the bank, so it will affect the people’s houses,” he said.
Commune chief Chhim Meng said the company—whose name he did not know—had obtained a dredging license, but added that the government ban had nullified it. He and about 10 of the protesters took a boat out to speak with the men working on the barges, which continued to dredge during the protest.
“We met the barge workers and asked those people to move their barges because the people [here] plan to hold a big demonstration against the company,” he said. “We ordered the workers to move their barges from this part of the river where the people protest because their license is invalid.”
The Phnom Penh municipal government ordered a moratorium on sand dredging in the city in August, though that ban too appears to have been flouted.
In 2009, Prime Minister Hun Send ordered a ban, which has also since been broken, on exporting dredged sand.