Global Witness Critical of Singapore’s Sand Imports from Cambodia Ahead of Sustainable Cities Summit

Environmental campaigners Global Witness said yesterday that Singapore’s alleged import of sand from Cambodia’s environmentally sensitive rivers and shores could to undermine its credibility as this year’s host of a sustainable cities conference.

With a focus on sustainable urban development, this year’s World Cities Summit–which begins today and wraps up on Thursday–is expected to draw hundreds of delegates from across the globe to the Southeast Asian island state. In a lengthy report released just last month, Global Witness detailed the Cambodian government’s alleged failure to impose a 2009 ban on sand exports-driven by demand from Singapore.

“Singapore is in danger of appearing hypocritical as it promotes its commitment to sustainability while simultaneously driving demand in an industry that is wreaking havoc on Cambodia’s coastal ecosystems,” Global Witness’ George Boden said in a statement the group released today.

“Global Witness has repeatedly asked Singapore to regulate its sand trade to prevent an ecological disaster,” Mr Boden said. “We hoped to see action ahead of the summit, but nothing appears to have changed.”

Besides accusing the Cambodian government of breaking its own export ban, the London-based group also blamed it for granting dredging licenses to CPP-affiliated businesses–which it said had supplied Singapore with vast quantities of sand without regard for social and environmental safeguards.

The government has repeatedly denied the charges, while Singapore maintains that it was never officially informed of the country’s export ban.

According to Global Witness, Singapore has increased its landmass by 22 percent since the 1960s and in 2008 was the world largest sand importer.

“The situation in Cambodia makes a mockery of the supposed ban on sand dredging and underlines the need for Singapore to take responsibility for the consequences of its sand sourcing rather than relying on ineffective legal measures in Cambodia,” Mr Boden said.

Foreign Affairs spokesman Koy Kuong said he had not heard of neither the summit in Singapore or Global Witness’ latest statement and declined to comment on the group’s allegations.

Officials from the Singapore Embassy in Phnom Penh could not be reached.


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