VietNamNet Bridge – Galvanized into action by a spate of press reports on the negative impacts of a sand ‘mining’ boom in the Mekong Delta, inspectors from the Ministry of Natural Resources and the Environment and the Ministry of Construction began a ten province inspection tour in Can Tho City on September 7, according to Dan Tri online newspaper.
Unregulated exports of sand dredged from rivers in the Mekong Delta and other areas nationwide are wreaking havoc, according to experts and local officials .
Pham Ngoc Son, Director of the Legal Department at the Ministry of Natural Resources and the Environment (MONRE), stated that the Mekong Delta has exported seven million tons of sand already in 2009, seven times more than in previous years. Sand exports are expected to reach 10 million tons by the end of the year.
Son warns that if Vietnam continues to allow unregulated exportation, it will have to import sand in the future. He adds that in other countries, sand has been so depleted that pulverized stones are being used instead.
In Can Tho, there are 10 sand dredging sites. Sixteen local companies have been granted licenses to ‘mine’ sand in the province from an area of 556 hectares. Can Tho’s total sand reserve is estimated at about 25 million cubic meters.
According to MONRE’s local office, there are actually 31 different sand dredging operations in progress on the Hau River, twice the authorized number.
Nguyen Huu Co, Head of the Can Tho Customs Department, defends Govemment policing efforts. Since October 2008, the Government has strengthened its management of the exploration, exploitation, and consumption of river-bed sand and gravel, he said. New construction sand and gravel exports have also been halted.
The problem, Co explains, is that companies are allowed to fulfill contracts made before November 30, 2008, however, have permission to be fulfilled. This “loophole” allows many businesses to continue sand exportation.
The Can Tho Customs Agency has discovered many “problematic (i.e., backdated) contracts,” but has no power to supervise them.
Deputy Chairman of Can Tho City Nguyen Thanh Son has admitted that it is very difficult to control the exploitation of sand. He explained that the demand for sand in Mekong Delta area construction alone is huge.
Looking to the future, China plans to dam the upper reaches of the Mekong River and sand output will decrease. To husband resources for the future, Son argued, the Government must order sand exportation to cease.
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