Activists, villagers vow to stop the sand mining in Kok Kong for export: Profit does not reach the hands of affected communities

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Transborder News: On 15 November 2016, Mother Nature Cambodia galvanizes the movement of affected people to stop sand mining in Koh Kong immediately. A peaceful campaign in the form of mangrove forest ordination is a mass action to protect estuarine ecosystems and their spirits from destructive sand mining. Large orange saffron has been tied around an island of Koh Kong mangrove forest to guard the ecosystem. About 50 youths from across the country, 10 monks and 30 local communities demand for the protection of their mangrove forest from sand-dredging.

Sun Mala, an environmental activists from Mother Nature Cambodia said “the sand dredging started in 2007, and the communities witness the impact of massive sand dredging in 2014. Sand dredging started at the breakneck pace across the country for exporting mainly. The no.1 importer of sand from Cambodia is Singapore, second is China, and the largest sand dredging in the country is in Koh Kong province, bordering Thailand. The Mekong River bank near Phnom Penh and Kampot River, Kampot province are also areas that threatened by dredging communities. The southern concessions are in Sihanoukville province. Asked about the profit, Mala revealed that the value of sand export is higher than 800,000 tones per year, according to the statistic and research. “Although the villagers raised their concerns of this massive sand mining across the country, but they seem to know position of the government”- he explained.

Koh Sorlaov, a rich mangrove forest in Koh Kong is the most impacted from sand dredging. There are 230 households affected by sand dredging. Villagers are afraid to raise their concerns because they know that the local figures and official are linked to companies. “When Mother Nature organized activities and establish a movement of affected people, local communities came to know the impacts and they are now leading anti-sand mining campaigns themselves”- Mala added. The mangrove forest ordination on 14 November is our form of peaceful campaign to push for the protection of our rich mangrove ecosystem; with the collaborations between 37 NGOs and CSOs in Koh Kong and Phnom Penh.

Asked about whether the sand dredging destroy environment, Mala said “mangrove forest is a habitat for aquatic lives, if the dredging barges came and disgorging tonnes of sands, their habitats and spawning ground are destroyed; how would they survive and our fisheries are impacted. Currently, Koh Kong is facing the deterioration: sand mining decimates pristine mangrove forest, destroys fisheries and threatens food security of local communities. “For those who are impacted from sand dredging, some of them migrate to Thailand to sell labor and get income. It is time to stop destroying the environment either you are Thai or Chinese company, it is time to stop destroying the environment and its fisheries”-he added.

For Mala who fights against this illegal sand dredging for years, when asked about profits from sand dredging, he said profit from sand dredging does not reach the impacted communities. “Where the money goes is publicly unknown”-Mala added. Villagers’ loss their natural resources and livelihoods while the government and company get all profits- the impacted fishing families did not get royalties. This is a lack of justice and accountability”.

Mala said from the research and statistic since 2007-2015, Cambodia earned 700 million US$ from exporting sand. Each year the government gains higher profit and it never goes down. According to studies, Cambodia is one of the leading sand exporter in ASEAN. There are increasing numbers of concessions across the country including in Koh Kong and other areas including the Mekong River.

Note: This is a translation of Thai-language report http://transbordernews.in.th/home/?p=15057

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