London-based Global Witness reported that Cambodia's sand-dredging industry has threatened endangered species, fish stocks and local livelihoods, despite the government's May 2009 ban on sand-dredging. The report said it has tracked boats being loaded with sand in Cambodia and heading to their destination in Singapore.
Singapore was the world's largest importer of sand in 2008 and has used sand imports to increase its landmass by 22 per cent since the 1960s. This development has wreaked havoc on the region's coastlines, with Malaysia, Vietnam and Indonesia having all announced bans on sand dredging for export due to environmental concerns.
"We are committed to the protection of the global environment, and we do not condone the illegal export or smuggling of sand, or any extraction of sand that is in breach of the source countries' laws and rules on environmental protection," claimed Singapore's Ministry of National Development, which is headed by Mah Bow Tan. Quite naturally, the buck will never stop at his desk. "The policing and enforcement of sand extraction licenses is ultimately the responsibility of the source country," it added, neatly shoving the responsibility to Cambodia.
In June this year, Singapore will host the World Cities Summit, which promotes 'sustainable and liveable cities'. "Singapore says that the import of sand is a purely commercial activity but it also presents itself as a regional leader on environmental issues," sniffed Global Witness' Boden. Short of calling a spade a spade, he added, "If Singapore wants its environmental stance to be taken seriously, monitoring where the sand is sourced and what is being done to obtain it would be an obvious place to start."