It’s not a new issue, so to speak. Back in 2017, Cambodia’s Ministry of Mines and Energy banned all sand exports to Singapore on environmental grounds after years of pressure by environmental groups.
By the time the prohibition was instituted, Singapore had already imported 73.6 million tonnes in sand from Cambodia since 2007. The constant digging and dredging of sand has had a serious impact on coastal ecosystems, damaging mangrove forests and causing seven beaches in Cambodia to disappear. Homes and areas of land situated near mining sites started collapsing into rivers, while the dredging machines decimated populations of crabs and fish after dumping waste directly into the river. All to satisfy the Singapore government’s hunger to redraw its coastlines.
The Atlantic’s piece focuses on Cambodia-born filmmaker Kalyanee Mam, who returned to her homeland to find communities uprooted after losing their land to sand dredging. Her short documentary, Lost World, explores the devastating impact of the mining activities juxtaposed with the beautiful surroundings of Gardens By The Bay, which is built on reclaimed land using sand taken from Cambodia, and other regional countries.
The Atlantic astutely describes the irony.
“Singapore’s quest to become one of the greenest cities in the world has led the country to commit what Mam calls ‘an ecological massacre.’”
Environmental group Mother Nature Cambodia noted while the majority of sand dredging out of Koh Kong’s coastal estuaries already came to an end, the film highlights the massive impact it has left in the community.