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Saigon Earmarks $7m for Measures to Thwart Illegal Sand Mining

Illegal sand mining in the area is devastating ecosystems and ushering in a host of environmental problems.

To combat the problem, Saigon authorities are building two sentry posts along the coast in Can Gio District and two more along the Dong Nai River in District 9, according to VnExpress. The posts, which will be manned round the clock, will be equipped with a variety of advanced technology, including radios, radar and obstruction, signal and warning lights, at a cost of VND165 billion (US$7 million). 

The use of sand for concrete in building projects has greatly increased demand for the material. While previously exploited by foreign countries, most notably Singapore, now Saigon's rapid development is fueling the removal of sand from natural locations by locals. In the first several months of the year, authorities seized 4,680 cubic meters of illegally obtained sand.

The dredging of sand sullies water, which makes exploited areas inhospitable for plants and animals, while also causing erosion, rendering coastal communities more vulnerable to flooding, as reported by National Geographic. Joyce Msuya, the acting executive director of the UN Environment Program (UNEP), told the outlet regarding sand mining: "For one of the most traded commodities on the planet, it is one of the least regulated activities, and there is very low general awareness about extraction impacts."

Vietnam has recently taken steps to address the problem, including discussions to revisit punishments. Currently, the potential fines, especially in the absence of rigorous monitoring, are too lenient to act as a deterrent. As it stands now, greedy granule-grabbers found to have illegally taken more than 50 cubic meters of sand can receive fines of VND100–200 million (US$4,200–8,500). In addition to raising those amounts, authorities want the transporting of smaller amounts to be regulated for the first time as well. 

The country is also exploring alternative building materials, such as crushed rocks, that can help reduce the demand for sand.

[Photo via Tuoi Tre]

Related Articles:

In the Mekong Delta, Excessive Sand Mining Is Destroying Local Homes

Illegal Sand Mining Puts Hoi An's Coastline at Severe Risk of Erosion: Experts

Vietnam to Run out of Construction Sand by 2020: Official

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