Prime Minister Hun Sen issued a new directive last week putting the Ministry of Mines and Energy in charge of all aspects of approving sand dredging operations in a move that one official said would help clear out a backlog of license requests.
“The Ministry of Mines and Energy is given responsibility to be the one to issue licenses and be responsible for all aspects of sand dredging businesses, from the time of request until the license is issued,” says the directive, signed by the prime minister on Friday.
Neng Saktheara, the ministry’s spokesman, said Sunday that the ministry has always been responsible for issuing licenses. But before it could do so, he explained, the Water Resources Ministry’s committee on sand resources management had to approve a hydrological study of a proposed project area.
Mr. Saktheara said he had not yet seen the directive, which has been posted on his ministry’s website since Saturday, but added that the order would speed things up.
“The process will be faster than before because the government has decided to simplify the complicated administrative process,” he said.
The spokesman said 10 companies currently had valid licenses to dredge sand from the country’s lakes and rivers, and that 80 applications—for new licenses, to renew old licenses, and for hydrology studies originally lodged with the sand resources committee—were all now with the Mines and Energy Ministry.
According to the directive, the Water Resources Ministry’s committee on sand resources management will be turned into an oversight and advisory body, with “the right to keep track of, monitor and provide recommendations on all technical points, principles…and duties related to your sector.”
In case of any “serious anarchy” in the sector, the committee is also charged with convening a meeting of the Mines and Energy Ministry and other relevant government departments to find a solution.
Water Resources Minister Lim Kean Hor, who chairs the sand resources committee, could not be reached. His cabinet chief, Chan Youttha, declined to comment.