Rampant dredging threatens Đồng Nai River

December, 16/2016 - 09:30

Multilple issues are plaguing dredging projects on the Đồng Nai River Lax licencing, negligent supervision, lack of co-ordination between exploiters, ‘sand mining pirates’ free roaming without much hinder, leading to environmental damages and mounting local residents’ aggravation.

Illegal sand mining on the section of Đồng Nai River that passes through Lâm Đồng Province has led to serious erosion, causing vast amount of farmland to be washed away by the waters. — Photo Dantri.vn
Viet Nam News

ĐỒNG NAI — Multiple issues are plaguing dredging projects on the Đồng Nai River. Slack licensing, negligent supervision, lack of co-ordination among exploiters and sand mining pirates freely roaming without much hinder were leading to environmental damage and increasing residents’ aggravation.

The provincial People’s Committee recently held a meeting with local departments and agencies to regulate dredging and minerals exploitation on the Đồng Nai River.

According to competent authorities, the previously “chaotic and disorderly” situation was brought under control. However, only the river section that passes through Biên Hoà City had actually got some relief.

Abuse in other areas, such as in the districts of Nhơn Trạch, Long Thành, Tân Phú and Định Quán, on the other hand, showed little signs of a let-up, with many mining and dredging projects adversely affecting even small tributaries, streams and ditches.

The dredging reportedly caused widespread erosion, many land areas were flooded with water, threatening locals’ safety and agricultural production.

Alarmingly, many illegal dredging operations involved "underworld" criminals, who suppressed anyone who "intruded" in the area or aired their complaint to the authorities, Dân Trí newspaper reported.

Đồng Nai Province’s Department of Environment and Natural Resources admitted that for many years now, sand mining was destroying the Đồng Nai River.

Nguyễn Ngọc Thường, deputy director of the department, said the fight against illegal sand mining was not satisfactorily effective due to lack of tight co-ordination among relevant agencies.

Fourteen companies were licensed to dredge on the river’s basin, both upstream and downstream. Of which, six were approved in principle by the provincial authorities, while the other eight got their licences from the Ministry of Transport – these companies’ activities were also considered excessive by the department.

“Every day, nearly 70 licensed vehicles and machines operated on the river, dredging some 10,000cu.m of sand everyday – that’s a very large amount,” Võ Văn Chánh, deputy chairman of the provincial People’s Committee, stated.

“Even though they had legal licences, but management of this exploitation must not be neglected. If violations were to occur, heavy sanctions, including licence revocation, must be administered without fail. In the future, it’s recommended that granting licences to new sand mining projects should stop. Regarding illegal mining activities, the police must get involved. This messy situation is no longer acceptable, people are outraged, and harsh criticism is being expressed everywhere,” he said.

And justifiably so.

Supervision agencies repeatedly confirmed that most dredging projects reportedly caused erosion of the riverbanks, impacting local aquaculture. Some opportunists sneaked in the night and illegal exploited the river’s sand, upsetting the people and seriously affected public security and order.

Supervision agencies also claimed that the effectiveness of the dredging did not meet the commitment stated in the contracts. Most projects were being implemented tardily and were deliberately prolonged.

According to Đồng Nai Province’s Department of Transport, the machines used in dredging were ‘basic lightweights’ and could only operate in areas of mixed sand and mud, which means, even intensive dredging could not make the river wide enough for ships to navigate; and the sand ended up being overexploited, even outside of permitted zones.

In addition, authorities were not notified of many incidents where sand mining companies caused erosion.

The companies had prepared their environmental assessment reports carefully to get their projects approved and got licences, but once the project commenced, the companies behaved irresponsibly, contrary to the stated commitment.

Rampant illegal sand mining had led to the loss of natural resources, loss of revenue, causing environmental impact and disturbing public order and waterway safety.

The provincial Department of Transport has proposed that the provincial authorities stop dredging operations of Long Thành Gold Investment and Trade Company, Đồng Nai Agricultural Services Co-operative and Tuấn Hải Đăng Co Ltd.

Võ Văn Chánh ordered the Department of Transport and Department of Environment and Natural Resources to examine and report to the provincial authorities on the 14 companies’ operations (sand mining, dredging, mineral overexploitation).

Supervision agencies have also been ordered to boost their monitoring efforts. Leaders of these agencies will be held accountable, should violations, especially if criminal elements are involved, occur under lax watch. — VNS