Vietnam probes accusations of foreign ships' environmental damage

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Vietnam's environment ministry is investigating accusations that foreign ships mining sands in Cambodian waters bordering Vietnam are threatening Vietnam's environment, Tuoi Tre reported Monday.

According to the newspaper, agencies in the southern province of Kien Giang have identified that sand mining in Cambodian border waters near Phu Quoc Island has caused landslides at local beaches. Moreover, noise and shaking from mining activities have affected the marine life environment, they said.

Local border guards said the foreign ships were contracted by Cambodia, which sells sand to Singapore.

Tuoi Tre reported that its investigation at the site last month found two Singaporean ships, each weighing some 10,000 tons, operating there.

Because Cambodian waters are mainly muddy, the ships usually approach Vietnam, an unnamed official from Ganh Dau Commune was quoted as saying.

In the meantime, a local fisherman, Pham Ngoc Phuong, from Phu Quoc said in the newspaper that the ships started mining sand more than one year ago.

Since then, he says, seafood yields have decreased. Additionally, unusual phenomenon have occurred along Phu Quoc's beaches, such as sand has disappeared and eroded, causing coconut and casuarina trees to root up, locals said.

Nguyen Hong Cuong, director of the Phu Quoc Marine Conservation Area's management board, said that sand mining poses threats to the ecosystem, because it will stir sediments, burying corals and seagrass. When covered by massive amount of sediment, the species will die, Cuong stressed.

Nguyen Phu Nam, former head of Phu Quoc's Department of Natural Resources and Environment, also raised concerns, saying the environment at Cua Can Commune's beach has changed drastically because of previous mining activities by Vietnamese companies.

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