Thursday, 3 September 2009

Does Cambodia Continue Sea Sand Exploitation to Be Exported to Singapore or Stop It? – Wednesday, 2.9.2009

Posted on 3 September 2009
The Mirror, Vol. 13, No. 628

“After the supply of sand supply from four countries – Malaysia, Indonesia, Thailand, and Vietnam – has been reduced, Singapore turns to Cambodia as a new sand supplying country, because it is in only a short distance away for the supply.

“During primary tests to dredge sea sand in Cambodia by some local companies, a Cambodian-Singaporean study groups has cooperated to assess the deposits of natural sand and the possible impact on the environment which may be caused from sand dredging. According to results from scientific studies by an official expert in sea bio-diversity who asked not to be named, Singapore needs about 3.6 billion cubic meter of sand. At present, Singapore needs 2.5 billion cubic meters more for filling spaces of water to connect many islands to become land. Thus, Cambodia has the sufficient capacity to supply sea sand to the market of Singapore, as this country plans to spend approx. US$8 billion to import sand from Cambodia to meet the country’s demand within the next 10 to 15 years.

“Exporting sand to Singapore is a big source of national income for Cambodia. It is an opportunity to seek national income to counter and alleviate the social and economy impacts resulting from the global economic crisis.

“However, the dredging of too much sand has resulted in many objections, saying that it will affect the environment seriously, damaging the bio-diversity of fish, squids, crabs, and shrimps. There is the non-biased opinion that sand dredging should be operated only at places where the gathering of natural sand opens blocked waterways.

“The above expert continued to say that the opinion voiced above [to extend large scale sand dredgng] is not based on evidence and scientific data. Therefore, there needs to be a thorough analysis based on broad scientific data to make a careful assessment in order to ensure that the seeking of national income is acceptable for the environment and the society.

“Many scientific data related to the natural formation of sea sand from geology, oceanography, informatiin about the natural formation of seashores, and natural dynamics that influence the formation of sea sand, must be gathered to analyze the impact on the environment and the society, and to study the possibility for exploitation.

“According to research by this expert, sand is formed from three sources: 1. From core rock during early geological periods; 2. From the flow of water in river systems leading into seashore regions; 3. From movements at the sea bottom and surrounding regions and at the high sea.

“Regarding sea resources such as sea fish, crabs, squids, shrimps etc., so far they do not have an high economic value. There is little yield from the sea each year, and the number of fishermen is declining. This is also because the Cambodian sea is shallow, and not favorable for fish to lay eggs. Camong fish [phonetic] can live and lay eggs at a depth of 30 to 40 meters. According to research between 1983 and 1986, the yirld of natural sea fish in Cambodia was only little over 50,000 tonnes.

“One expert believes that Cambodia, with a seashore of 435 km, and with a sea area of 21,216 sqkm, which can be divided into four regions, has the potential to supply sea sand to the Singaporean market without much serious impact from sand dredging as mentioned by some critics. Considering physical and chemical factors, it can have an effect only for a short period, because after nine hours at the latest [after sand dredging], the situation it will return to the normal condition. The loss of life supporting elements and slides down of the seashore will not happen, if dredging sites are properly located, because sand that can be dredged is 30 km away from the seashore.

“In order to conduct (economically and environmentally) successful sand dredging, primarily, some technical conditions must be fulfilled: 1. Proper definition of sites; 2. Study sand deposits at the sea bottom by conducting Serab Smapling Vibrocoring seismic and Bathymetrie Surveys, and by analyzing tests to define the sand and the chemical consistency of the sand. 3. Define and use environmentally friendly sand dredging machines, like the Trailing Suction Hopper Dredger or the Cutter Suction Hopper Dredger.

“At present, the average price of sea sand is US$3.20 per cubic meter. Therefore, if Cambodia intends to supply the market with 2.5 billion cubic meters within 10 to 15 years, it can earn US$8 billion as national income. According to different studies, the tax rate for exporting sand is US$0.20 per cubic meter for the Ministry of Industry, Mine, and Energy, corresponding to US$500 million; US$0.25 per cubic meters for the Taxation Department corresponding to US$625 million; US$0.7875 for the the CamSAB shipping agency, corresponding to US$1,868 million; and US$0.0025 for CamControl, corresponding to US$6.25 million.

“Based on the above tax rates, the total income sources becoming state and other related units, will amount to up to US$3.1 billion.

“Nevertheless, according to the above expert, the provision of many concession sites [for sand dredging] is not a proper way for sea sand exploitation. According to previous research, the Sand Control Committee, administered by the Ministry of Water Resources and Meteorology, has provided concession for 224 sites at the Mekong, Tonle Sap and Basak rivers, resulting in a variety of different consequences. There is not much income made for the national budget; furthermore, it affects the environment and the society. Sea sand dredging is not different from river sand dredging if the provision of dredging sites at the sea is given to as many different interests as at the rivers, and the sea environment will be affected, because the private sector that can receive concession regions with less sand resources, cannot use sand dredging methods which adhere to technical standards. For example, in order to lease a somewhat old Trailing Suction Hopper Dredger, which can dredge 10,000 cubic meters of sand per day, they need to pay US$2 million, and the export of sand per month must not be less than 1.5 million cubic meter. Why coulde the private sector join in using natural resource worth US$4.9 billion of the state to make benefits for themselves? If such activities continues 30 to 40 years, does the nation have resources for the country’s development in the future?

“Cambodia should turn to look back to 10 years ago, when Singapore imported sea sand from Malaysia, Indonesia, Thailand, and Vietnam. Now, these countries reduce or stop exporting sand to Singapore. They have two reasons: 1. These four countries also need sea sand for developments in their own countries; second, the politics of these countries aim to compete with Singapore in the fields of the military, the economy, and the industry in the region, as Singapore is a leading country in ASEAN, both in ports and the transfer of goods in the region.”

Rasmei Kampuchea, Vol.17, #4988, 2.9.2009
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Wednesday, 2 September 2009

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