"Cambodia’s Dirty Business"

"Three activists are living in exile following a campaign to expose Cambodia’s sand mining industry."

"Along Cambodia’s southwest coast, the rumble and thud of dredgers has polluted the Peam Krasop Wildlife Sanctuary for more than a decade. Local people, most of them fishers, have seen millions of tonnes of sand stripped from pristine estuaries. Activists say the Cambodian government, reticent to stymie the lucrative industry, has done little to protect the communities, so they are taking matters into their own hands, with potentially dangerous consequences.

Sand is big business in the 21st century: by some estimates, it’s a US $70-billion industry. Around the world, it is hauled from riverbeds and coastlines to be turned into concrete, asphalt, and glass. The demand for sand has spawned a global black market, with corruption, scandal, and even murder. In October 2016, Cambodian environmental group Mother Nature revealed that some $750-million worth of Cambodian sand had been imported by Singapore, with no record of it leaving Cambodia. Mother Nature alleged that a “sand mafia” of local business moguls and government authorities, ostensibly responsible for monitoring the trade, was behind the heist.

The government made numerous attempts to discredit the findings, and then shut down international sand exports a month later under growing pressure from opposition lawmakers and environmentalists. Finally, the estuaries and residents of Peam Krasop had some peace."

Matt Blomberg reports for Hakai magazine April 19, 2017.

Source: Hakai, 04/20/2017