VINH LONG — Illegal sand mining in the Tien River has encroached the safety corridor of the 1.53 km My Thuan Bridge linking Vinh Long and Tien Giang provinces, and poses a possible threat to the bridge itself.
In an area near the bridge, one of the most important in the Cuu Long (Mekong) Delta, there is an estimated 14 million cu.m of sand, according to the Vinh Long Department of Natural Resources and Environment.
Many barges come at night and illegally spirit away, local residents said.
The sand there is clean and has no mud, the most expensive kind, they said, adding illegal miners come there constantly as a result.
Nguyen Thi Nhanh, a resident of An Binh Commune in Vinh Long's Long Ho District, is terrified her house will slip into the river as a result of the denudation.
Already more than 3,000sq.m of her 4,000sq.m longan orchard has plunged into the river because of the land erosion caused by illegal miners in the past few years, she said.
Dozens of other families in the local An Hoa hamlet have also lost their land to erosion, she said.
Le Minh Hung, deputy head of the An Binh Commune People's Committee, said sand mining is the major cause of river-bank erosion.
In An Hoa and An Long hamlets, 30ha of agricultural and housing land have been lost in this manner, he said.
Along sections of the Tien and Co Chien Rivers in An Binh, the province People's Committee has licensed four companies to mine 800,000cu.m of sand a day, he said.
Erosion caused by sand mining has been a problem since 2000, but in the past two years the companies' operations have expanded, worsening the situation, he said.
Roan Ngoc Chien, director of the Vinh Long Department of Natural Resources and Environment, told Nguoi Lao Dong (The Labourer) newspaper that licences are not issued to mine sand within 2,750 metres downstream of the My Thuan Bridge though the actual prohibited area is only 1,000 meters around the bridge.
An official from the Bridge and Road Repair and Management Company No. 715, which manages the My Thuan Bridge, said mining has occurred within the safety corridor in recent years.
He said: "There were nights when I patrolled the bridge and found barges illegally mining sand just 100 metres away from the bridge. Despite being fined, they continue their violations."
In May the Road Management Zone 7 urged the Vinh Long and Tien Giang People's Committees to stop the mining in the bridge's safety zone.
In June the Vinh Long administration ordered the Department of Natural Resources and Environment, Long Ho District, and Vinh Long city to crack down on the activity.
However, they have failed to stop it, locals said.
One of the reasons the illegal mining cannot be controlled is the lack of co-operation between Vinh Long and Tien Giang in managing and punishing it, according to Dao Van Hai, deputy director of the latter province's Department of Natural Resources and Environment. — VNS