Sand-dredging was suspended in Siem Reap province’s Banteay Srei district on Monday after it was found that unlicensed operations had polluted creeks, leaving fish dead and impacting residents.
Banteay Srei district governor Khim Finan told The Post on Tuesday that it had been found that most sand-dredging being carried out across the district had failed to comply with the law as set out by the district administration.
With agreement from the Siem Reap provincial Department of Mines and Energy, the administration had temporarily suspended 16 dredging operations in the district to ensure the owners would apply for permission and obey the law.
“This is a necessary measure to protect our shared interests. It will ensure that [illegal dredging] doesn’t affect the community. It will also streamline the management of sand-dredging across the district,” Finan said.
He said provincial and district administrations had found some sand-dredging operations taking place in locations and at a scale not allowed by law. Others had failed to properly comply with technical standards and polluted the water systems used by residents.
“Some sand-dredging sites have affected farming, with the water generally used for animals. The sites also impacted creeks, damaged biodiversity systems, and affected roads,” Finan said.
The district administration had taken preliminary measures by issuing fines to the operators, he said, while the affected sites had to be restored to their original state.
“All sand-dredging operators in Banteay Srei district must stop their activities completely from [Monday]. If they have licences, they must contact the district administration to have them checked and reissued if they want to continue their activities,” Finan said.
The district administration had set Monday for all sand-dredging operators in the district to install signs in front of each site indicating they were licensed. If they did not comply, they would not be allowed to continue operating.
Khoem Tel, the head of the district’s Tabin community, said sand-dredging in the area had severely affected residents’ water sources, with dead fish found in creeks.
“The residents in Banteay Srei district living by the creeks have suffered because sand dredging led to murky water flowing in. Cattle cannot drink the water, and fish have been found dead.
“Before the sand-dredgers arrived, we could catch fish to support our families, but we can no longer do so. Residents cannot raise livestock either because the water has become so murky that the animals cannot drink it,” Tel said.
If the sand-dredgers were to start operating again, he said, they would have to ensure they did not impact the creeks used by residents.
The Ministry of Mines and Energy’s General Department of Mineral Resources director-general Yos Monirath hailed the cooperation between the provincial department and the district administration in addressing the environmental pollution concerns of residents.