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Foreseeable disaster

The Saigon Times Daily
Monday,  Jun 5,2017,22:52 (GMT+7)
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Foreseeable disaster

The Saigon Times Daily

For years, sand has been widely tapped for export to neighboring countries, with a volume estimated at millions of tons each year. In the first two months of this year, according to local media, at least one million tons of sand has been shipped to Singapore alone. Such rampant sand mining is inviting a disaster for the country.

Negative impacts on the ecology, landslides along riverbanks, and massive erosions along the coastline are among a few grave consequences of the uncontrolled exploitation of sand across the country, and such calamities are poised to increase in the coming time. In terms of business efficiency, sand export brings little to the economy, as this natural resource is sold at just a few U.S. dollars a cubic meter, meaning the country fetches a trivial sum each year from sand export.

But the damages are huge, in both immediate and long-term perspectives.

For the immediate future, these days have seen the sand price for construction projects skyrocket several times to some VND800,000 a cubic meter in HCMC last week, and the price spike is adversely affecting construction works in the country. In the longer term, civil as well as industrial construction projects may face more acute problems, from higher costs to delays due to the shortage of sand.

As Vietnam is said to be among the countries hit the hardest by climate change and sea level rises, the demand for sand will be all the greater to consolidate vulnerable areas and raise the foundations of low-lying areas. With the sand resource facing repletion given the current tempo of mining, sand shortage will prove a big agony for the country.

Between 2013 and now, ministries and localities have approved 40 projects to exploit 250 million cubic meters of sand to be dredged from estuaries and areas of salinity intrusion for export, according to Bao Xay Dung newspaper. Up to 21 out of these 40 projects are operational now.

In April, Deputy Prime Minister Truong Hoa Binh in a correspondence urged relevant ministries and localities to stop issuing new licenses for enterprises to mine sand for export. However, those sand-mining enterprises with active contracts with foreign buyers are not affected by the ban.

Vietnam has had a bitter lesson from coal export. For decades, coal had been exported en masse, at tens of millions of tons a year, only to see the country become a net coal importer now. The mistake is to be repeated with sand, if drastic measures are not taken right away. The disaster is foreseeable.

The Saigon Times Daily

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