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Illegal sand exploitation a threat to river eco-systems

Update: July, 24/2015 - 09:33

Vu Ngoc Long, president of the Southern Institute of Ecology, spoke to Tuoi Tre (Youth) newspaper about the exploitation of sand along Viet Nam's rivers.

What do you think about the current sand exploitation?

Illegal extraction has risen dramatically in recent years because of the rapdily growing demand for construction materials. Most rivers across the country have been exploited.

Many residents living along rivers have complained about the possibility of landsides that would swallow their land and houses. Despite the law, miners working in groups use dredges to suck sand from river beds day and night. This is creating environmental and socio-economic destruction.

Besides causing landslides, how does indiscriminate sand mining impact on the environment?

The over-exploitation of sand is one of main causes of landslides along riverbanks. Large-scale extraction has negative impacts on the ecology. It creates erosion, removes organic matter for aquatic life, changes water temperatures and flow, damages river dykes and damages infrastructure.

Illegal mining is killing the whole ecosystem of the rivers.

Local authorities and police have tried to control the situation, but complain that they lack staff and resources to be effective. Is this true?

To tighten up on illegal exploitation, more resources are needed. Provincial environmental departments should be given more responsibility in managing and inspecting miners. All mining plans should be checked and, if necessary, re-organised.

What do you think about local authorities in each province being able to grant licences to miners?

The current licensing is uncontrollable. Power should not be given to particular provinces, but to a central authority covering all riverine provinces in a region.

How can we get rid of illegal exploitation?

Difficulties in managing sand pirates exist for many reasons, but the main thing is that local authorities are not acting responsibly. This is why many local authorities ignore violations, some even get paid to look the other way.

In some districts, authorities grant licences to mining enterprises and give them full powers to do their work. Most people allowed to exploit sand only focus on profits, not the impact of their work.

To deal with the situation, authorities should strictly manage the licensing of mining activities and strictly deal with violations. — VNS

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