|Illegal sand mining continues in Cần Giờ sea, local authorities warn. They say stricter punishment is needed.— Photo thanhnien.vn|
HCM CITY – HCM City People’s Committee Chairman, Nguyễn Thanh Phong, has asked the police investigation office to investigate and prosecute illegal sand mining cases in the Cần Giờ sea area.
The recurrence of illegal sand mining operations in Cần Giờ sea is unacceptable, and the offenders must be criminally prosecuted, Phong was quoted as saying in Thanh niên (Young People) newspaper.
He also said that the city People’s Committee will hold a meeting this week with the authorities of Bà Rịa-Vũng Tàu, Long An, Bến Tre and Tiền Giang, as well as Đồng Nai and Bình Dương provinces to discuss punishment measures against those involved in the increasing illegal sand mining.
Round-the-clock checkpoints proposed
At a press conference held by the city People’s Committee on Monday, director of the city Department of Natural Resources and Environment, Nguyễn Tòan Thắng, said that from 2013 until now, the city authorities had not granted any permits for sand mining.
Regarding the serious illegal sand mining at Cần Giờ beach, Thắng said the city had resolutely fought, arrested and strictly handled offenders, but it was still recurring. “We absorb information reported by the media to continue to handle it thoroughly," he said.
According to Thắng, the Cần Giờ area was assessed to have large sand reserves and due to the particularity of the area, it had to be preserved to protect the general environment of the city and neighboring provinces. Hence, sand mining was strictly prohibited there.
Answering the reporters’ question about whether there was a “black power” of local authorities or individuals who support illegal sand mining, Thắng affirmed the environmental police had not detected any evidence to that effect, and that the opinion of the city’s leaders was to strictly punish violators. “Because preserving the sea of Cần Giờ is to preserve the green environment for our children," he said.
Meanwhile, Võ Văn Hoan, Chief of Office of the city People’s Committee, said that the Committee required the relevant offices to join the fight against illegal sand mining, because the situation was beyond the control of the Cần Giờ District authorities.
According to Hoan, receiving information from the media, the city People’s Committee will ask the department of natural resources and environment to coordinate with related departments to strengthen inspection, supervision and ensure strict punishment.
“Border guard forces must conduct checks round-the-clock,” he said, “Illegal sand mining is occurring 20km from the shore, so the key locations must have checkpoints. It is time to keep a tight watch on sand gathering sites. If the owner cannot prove the origin of sand, the case must be strictly dealt with.”
Also at the meeting, Chairman of the Cần Giờ District People’s Committee, Lê Minh Dũng, said, "From the beginning of this year, local authorities have fined 40 cases, of which 29 cases were related to unknown origin of sand and 11 were of illegal sand mining.”
In the latest case on Monday morning, police seized four boats of illegal sand miners in the Cồn Ngựa area.
Stricter punishment needed
Trần Thanh Đức, deputy commander of the city Border Guard, affirmed a serious increase in cases of illegal mining in the Cần Giờ sea, recently. “We know that if there is a hot spot in the area, the commander of that area must be responsible.”
The border guard force has discovered and seized a lot of illegal sand mining boats recently. However, he said that in the process of implementation, there were many difficulties due to the large area and lack of equipment, while the illegal sand miners were becoming more and more mischievous.
He added that the district People’s Committee had requested the city People’s Committee to apply a stricter punishment against sand mining criminals, including setting up of watchtowers at Cồn Ngựa sea area.
Colonel Nguyễn Hồng Dũng, head of the city Border Guard’s drug and crime prevention department, said in 2016, it had detected 20 cases with 41 persons, fined nearly VNĐ2 billion people and confiscated 5,600cu.m of sand.
Over the last 10 months of this year, 29 cases were discovered with 80 people, more than VNĐ1.4 billion fines imposed and more than 1,100cu.m of sand confiscated.
"With the high profit from illegal sand mining, the administrative fine isn’t heavy enough. Each vehicle contains between 600 and 700cu.m of sand and the vessel only sucks sand for about an hour and a half," said Dũng.-- VNS