HCM CITY (VNS) — The HCM City Transport Department has inspected an area in Long Phuoc Ward, District 9, where local residents complain illegal sand mining in a section of the Dong Nai River has eroded over 42 hectares of their land.
The inspectors confirmed following a visit on Tuesday what the local authorities too had said earlier – that the land had been lost to erosion and subsidence after sand was removed – but are yet to name the perpetrators.
A member of the team told Tuoi Tre (Youth) newspaper the sand had been mined by either a company licensed by the Ministry of Transport to dredge a section of the river from Dong Nai Bridge to Ong Nhieu Canal or illegal sand miners.
However, many locals are sure that the culprits were sand thieves who operated openly in a section of the Dong Nai River in Long Phuoc Ward.
Nguyen Trung Thu is among people who lost land to the erosion. She showed her land use right certificate and lamented at the loss of over 1,000 square metres of land.
"We bought a plot of land of over 1,000sq.m in Long Phuoc Ward and planned to build a house for our old age. But it has all disappeared into the water."
Nguyen Van Hai lost 700sq.m; Tran Van Tien and Tran Van Thang, 1,000sq.m each; and Vo Thi Xuan Hoa, nearly 2,000sq.m.
A former illegal sand miner in the Dong Nai, who asked not to be named, said a hired hand in the illegal business earned around VND1 million (US$46) a day.
Their bosses pocketed much more, he said.
"Each boat takes away over 100cu.m of sand every day. Expanses that were land before have now become one with the river."
The boats arrive every 45 minutes to suck huge amounts of sand from the riverbed and load them into waiting boats or barges from neighbouring provinces like Binh Duong, Long An, and Dong Nai, according to Tuoi Tre.
The erosion and land subsidence has also left many houses along the river badly damaged, with some giving way entirely.
Many residents have reported the violations to local authorities, but to little avail since the thieves lie low during times of heightened inspection and return a few days later.
Nguyen Thi Ngoc Thanh, chairperson of the Long Phuoc Ward People's Committee, said the erosion had been triggered by illegal sand mining.
But when spotted by HCM City authorities, the sand miners easily fled to Dong Nai Province, which was straddled by the section of the river, she said.
Senior Lieutenant Colonel Nguyen Hong Ninh, deputy head of the city's Waterway Traffic Police Division, admitted that most of the time the thieves were tipped off about police raids, allowing them ample time to flee or sink their boats to avoid being caught red-handed.
On Monday, the District 9 People's Committee met with relevant agencies to review measures to combat the illegal sand mining. — VNS