Cambodia has ordered a temporary halt to all sand dredging operations in the country's rivers and lakes in order to study the environment and social impact of a practice that has caused deadly river bank collapse incidents.
The moratorium was set Wednesday at a meeting of the Ministry of Mines and Energy, the Ministry of Environment, police and military police
Minister of Mines and Energy Suy Sem told a news conference that the environmental and social impact studies will determine the future of sand dredging. Much of the sand is exported to neighboring Southeast Asian countries and used in construction.
“The government will also stop issuing any new licenses until the Ministry of Environment and the Ministry of Mines and Energy discuss with local authorities at all levels first,” he said.
Suy Sem didn’t say when the studies will begin or how long they will take.
Under the policy, holders of sand dredging business licenses must submit new applications, he added.
However, Suy Sem said in order to meet local demand for sand, companies who hold valid licenses can apply to extend their permit dredge sand at existing dredging sites. They will not be permitted to open new dredging sites during the moratorium period.
“In order to avoid illegal sand dredging, we can extend licenses to meet sand demand," he said, promising quick approval to applications to continue existing dredging.
Suy Sem said that there are 142 sand dredging companies operating in Cambodia, but only 37 of them have licenses.
“Companies whose licenses are expired must stop to avoid breaking the law. We are working hard to extend their licenses in a short period of time, but if they continue to operate, they will be prosecuted, “he said.
Military Police Commander in Chief Sao Sokha said he would cooperate with the two ministries to stop illegal sand dredging.
Minister of Environment Say Sam Al said the government will conduct studies along rivers, tributaries and the sea coast to determine which areas can sustain exploitation of sand.
He rejected the notion that dredging was the sole cause of river collapses and landslides, saying natural erosion was also a factor.
A ground-breaking collaboration between dairy industry body DairyNZ, the Waikato River Authority and Waikato Regional Council is lining up to better protect and restore the Waikato River.
Their Waikato River Restoration Strategy project was launched near Hamilton today by Environment Minister Nick Smith. It’s believed to be the first collaborative initiative of its type involving such organisations in the country and will run till 2017.
The Authority and DairyNZ are contributing $200,000 each in direct costs with the regional council contributing $75,000. Other costs will be met by significant in-kind support, such as staff time, from DairyNZ and the council.
The three organisations involved in the strategy have all put major resources into helping protect and restore the river in recent years. .
A key aim of the new Waikato River Restoration Strategy will be to ensure that this combined work – plus the work of other agencies - is carried out as efficiently as possible, whilst obtaining maximum benefit by ensuring it is integrated and co-ordinated.
The strategy will help guide investment decisions for improving the health of the Waikato River over the next five to 15 years. It is also designed to guide the work of other stakeholders committed to improving the health and well-being of the river. The strategy will be one of the key tools for delivering on the Vision and Strategy for a restored and protected Waikato River and its catchments.
A key supporting action has been the creation of a Waikato River Restoration Forum, involving the three strategy partners as well as all Waikato River Iwi, the Department of Conservation, Fonterra, Genesis Energy and Mighty River Power, along with local councils. The forum is chaired by the Authority’s CEO Bob Penter, and will offer advice and input into the preparation of the strategy.
“Our aim is to maximise opportunities to realise the vision for a healthy Waikato River that sustains abundant life and prosperous communities,” said Authority co-chair Tukoroirangi Morgan.
“Those communities, in turn, are all responsible for restoring and protecting the health and wellbeing of the Waikato River, and all it embraces, for generations to come.”
Energy-starved Pakistanis, their economy battered by chronic fuel and electricity shortages, may soon have to contend with a new resource crisis: major water shortages, the Pakistani government warned this week.
A combination of global climate change and local waste and mismanagement have led to an alarmingly rapid depletion of Pakistan’s water supply, said the minister for water and energy, Khawaja Muhammad Asif.
“Under the present situation, in the next six to seven years, Pakistan can be a water-starved country,” Mr. Asif said in an interview, echoing a warning that he first issued at a news conference in Lahore this week.
The prospect of a major water crisis in Pakistan, even if several years distant, offers a stark reminder of a growing challenge in other poor and densely populated countries that are vulnerable to global climate change.
In Pakistan, it poses a further challenge to Prime Minister Nawaz Sharif, whose government has come under sharp criticism for failing to end the country’s electricity crisis. In some rural areas, heavy rationing has meant that as little as four hours of electricity a day is available.
In the interview, Mr. Asif said the government had started to bring the electricity crisis under control, and predicted a return to a normal supply by 2017. But energy experts are less confident that such a turnaround is possible, given how long and complex the problem has proved to be.
Now the country’s water supply looms as a resource challenge, intensified by Pakistan’s enduring infrastructure and management problems.
Agriculture is a cornerstone of the Pakistani economy. The 2,000-mile-long Indus River, which rises in the Himalayas and spans the country, feeds a vast network of irrigation canals that line fields producing wheat, vegetables and cotton, all major sources of foreign currency. In the north,hydroelectric power stations are a cornerstone of the creaking power system.
A combination of melting glaciers, decreasing rainfall and chronic mismanagement by successive governments has put that water supply in danger, experts say.
Image: Afghan refugees pumped water by hand in a slum of Islamabad, Pakistan. An official warned that Pakistan could become “a water-starved country. © Muhammed Muheisen / Associated Press
Thames Water has been fined £220,000 following a pollution offence in the River Blackwater in Camberley that left scores of fish dead.
In a court case brought by the Environment Agency, Thames Water was found guilty of breaching its environmental permit by allowing sewage to enter the river on two occasions in September 2012.
Pollution resulting from the incidents at Camberley Sewage Treatment Works (STW) was reported to have killed more than 100 fish in the river, which flows through a Site of Special Scientific Interest.
At Guildford Crown Court, Thames Water was fined and also ordered to pay costs of £27,500 by Judge Lucas, who said it was ‘important the courts send out a clear message’ to all utility companies.
“Regulations are there to protect the environment and the courts will act firmly where those regulations are breached and where the environment is either damaged or put at risk of damage,” the judge said.
The case was first heard last September at Redhill Magistrates Court.
Given the seriousness of the offences, it was committed to crown court for sentencing, where higher penalties could be imposed.
Thames Water pleaded guilty to causing pollution to an environmentally sensitive site on September 7 and September 30 2012, by way of ‘illegal discharges of polluting effluent’ from the Camberley STW.
The court heard the Environment Agency received reports of dead fish at Shepherd Meadows Nature Reserve, Sandhurst, on September 7 and sent officers to the site.
They found ‘distressed, gasping and dead fish’ in the river margins from Blackwater train station to Shepherds Meadow, nearly two kilometres downstream from Camberley STW.
Their investigation found that a problem at the STW had led to partially-treated sewage being discharged into the river, suffocating fish over a distance of around 1.5km.
Thames Water blamed its contractors for the fault, but the judge concluded that the company had been ‘reckless in relation to the incident’ and that ‘significant environmental harm had been caused’.
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