Chairman of northern Vietnam province intimidated for putting brakes on sand exploitation
An officer inspects a sand dredging barge in the Cau River in the northern Vietnamese province of Bac Ninh.
Nguyen Tu Quynh, chairman of the provincial administration, has sent a letter notifying the prime minister that he and other officers had been threatened for ending a sand dredging project in the Cau River, an 83 kilometer long waterway snaking through Bac Ninh and Bac Giang Provinces.
Speaking with (Youth) newspaper on Wednesday, Chairman Quynh stated he had asked the Ministry of Public Security to carry out a comprehensive investigation into the investors behind the detrimental project.
According to the official, three sand exploitation projects along the waterway were approved in 2014 and executed by the Vietnam Inland Waterways Administration (VIWA).
Ha Luu Company, the contractor hired by VIWA to carry out one of the three, was found to be taking advantage of the project to illegally exploit sand, causing serious damage to local dams and riverbanks.
The damage was only exacerbated by local sand thieves also operating in the area, according to the official.
It cost the provincial People’s Committee about VND30 billion (US$1.3 million) to fix the environmental impacts of the project, resulting in the committee putting a ban on similar projects since 2015.
However, a dredging project reappeared in November 2016, with around 40 boats operating on a daily basis, sparking concern from the local public over its threats to the environment.
“Our probe revealed that the People’s Committee in Bac Giang Province approved the plan to be carried out until the end of 2017,” the Bac Ninh’s chairman stated.
Chairman Quynh confirmed to he himself had been threatened after trying to interfere with the project.
However, the official refused to reveal further details of the threats and intimidation experienced by him and other officers.
“We have informed the prime minster of the situation. As competent authorities are probing our case, we cannot provide further information regarding the threats,” he elaborated.
Aside from the investigation, the province’s leader has also requested the Ministry of Transport to conduct an evaluation on the river dredging project.
He quoted the suggestion of the Bac Ninh People’s Committee to cease the project due to its negative effects on the environment.
According to the chairman, the fact that the project developer and local sand thieves operate at the same time is creating a significant challenge for competent agencies to identify and prevent the criminals.