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Illegal sand mining rampant in Son La

Update: February, 03/2015 - 09:15
Along the Ma River in the northern mountainous province of Son La's Song Ma District, ships are illegally exploiting sand. — Photo tinmoitruong

SON LA (VNS) — Along the Ma River in the northern mountainous province of Son La's Song Ma District, ships are illegally exploiting sand. The sand is transported away by enormous trucks, leaving dust that affects passers-by and nearby houses.

The problem has worsened in recent years despite efforts by local authorities.

About 20 ships illegally exploit sand and gold along the 80km stretch of river passing through Song Ma District, said Hoang Minh Luoc, chairman of the Chieng Khoong Commune. The commune People's Committee penalised violators, but they only stopped for a short time and then resumed their violations.

Vi Duc Tho, chairman of the Song Ma District People's Committee, said that households living along the Ma River in the district owned about 70 sand-sucking ships.

Chieng Khoong Commune, with 14 households, had 20 ships –the most ships in the district. Chieng Cang Commune had 21 households with 33 ships.

Most of the households did not have permits to exploit sand. The district had penalised them many times, but the households continued to exploit sand, Tho said.

Luong Van Quan, a resident of Tien Son Village, Chieng Khuong Commune, said that he knew that sand exploitation violated the law and had sent letters to district and provincial people's committees to ask for the permits, but did not receive any reply.

"I spent hundreds of millions of dong to buy a ship to suck sand, so I was forced to take the sand while waiting for a reply from local authorities to avoid losses," he said.

Sand in the river could only be exploited from July to December so the income from sand exploitation was not high, Quan added.

Illegal sand exploitation also happened in the Central Highlands province of Gia Lai's Chu Pah District. At four individually owned sand exploitation shops along Ia Doal Stream in Hoa Phu Commune, each shop has thousands of cubic metres of sand piled up, according to Lao dong (Labour) newspaper.

A local resident said that the sand shops had eroded more than 2,000sq.m of land owned by his family.

Le Xuan Dung, head of the Chu Pah District Division of Natural Resources and Environment, said that illegal sand exploitation had happened in the district during the past five years.

However, the division did not have enough inspectors to control it.

Under regulations, the district People's Committee chairman must be blamed for illegal sand exploitation, according to Ho Mau Long, head of the Mineral Division under the provincial Department of Natural Resources and Environment.

However, Chu Pah District does not currently have a chairman because the former chairman was appointed to another position in the provincial Department of Planning and Investment. — VNS

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