Tonle Bassac Dredging Legal Kandal Province Officials Say

Officials in Kandal province Thurs­day appeared to be at odds with the Ministry of Industry, Mines and Energy over the legality of dredg­ing operations in the province.

Dredging vessels were witnessed in operation earlier this week on the Tonle Bassac in Takhmau district, days after an SRP lawmaker filed a complaint about illegal dredging in Takhmau, Kien Svay and Sa’ang districts. Minister of Industry Suy Sem had said earlier this week that he believed that no licenses had been issued to dredge in that area.

On Thursday, Suy Sem said by telephone Thursday that his subordinates had checked into the issue and confirmed that no licenses to dredge have been issued for any of those districts.

“They are all illegal,” he said of the dredging operations, and added that he will send a working group to in­vestigate the situation.

However, Hak Vanndy, director of the Provincial Industry, Mines and Energy Department, said Thursday by telephone that six companies have licenses to conduct dredging in the Tonle Bassac river in Takhmau and Sa’ang districts.

He said that the six companies have been licensed since 2007, but that only four are currently operating.

Hak Vanndy added that villagers’ claims in those districts that the riverbanks were collapsing because of dredging operations were false, saying that such collapses were caused by naturally occurring erosion.

“If we do not allow the dredging businesses, the river will be shallow and interrupt the cruiseway,” he said, adding that if private companies don’t dredge it the state would have to.

Ouk Vanna, deputy director of the provincial Water Resources Management Department, also said that, although illegal dredging operations do exist, the riverbank collapses were natural and not be­cause of dredging.

Khem Laky, SRP lawmaker for Kandal province, had raised the issue of dredging in Kandal in a Sunday letter to National Assembly President Heng Samrin because local villagers’ land and homes are sliding into the river.

Chunn Sirun, Kandal provincial governor, said by telephone Thurs­day there will be no compensation for villagers nor any action taken to stop landslides in the area because it is a “natural disaster” that occurs every year. He added that land within 30 meters of the river is state property anyway.

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