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Saturday, December 30, 2017

Ramasamy: Why take sand when clearing silt for flood mitigation?

Penang DCM claims environment and natural resources ministry is hiding commercial intent of dredging the rivers to export sand to India.
p-ramasamy-pasir-sand-india-1PETALING JAYA: Penang Deputy Chief Minister (II) P Ramasamy has questioned Putrajaya’s explanation that Malaysian river sand was being exported to India after silt needed to be removed from the estuaries of the Sungai Pahang and Sungai Kelantan to prevent floods.
Ramasamy asked why there was a need to remove sand if dredging was being done to remove silt.
He said the environment and natural resources ministry’s explanation only raised more questions about how flood mitigation was done in Pahang and Kelantan.
“If dredging is to ensure the removal of the silt, why was there the need to remove sand?” he said.
He asked if the ministry was deliberately confusing the matter to hide the commercial intent of dredging the rivers.
“It appears that dredging was permitted in these two rivers not so much to remove silt or for flood mitigation, but rather to mine valuable sand for export,” he said in a statement today.
On Dec 26, the Times of India had reported that the Indian state of Karnataka received a consignment of 54,000 tonnes of sand from Malaysia, after a shipment of 55,000 tonnes was made to neighbouring Tamil Nadu in October.
Following criticism by Ramasamy about environmental degradation in Malaysia due to the sand mining, Bernama yesterday reported the ministry as saying that the deepening of the rivers was decided upon after careful studies, including bathymetry (profile of river water depth) surveys.
It said these were done by the department of environment (DOE) and the drainage and irrigation department (DID).
“The main reason for the dredging at Sungai Kelantan and Sungai Pahang was to deepen the estuaries of both rivers which had silted up and had been causing debilitating floods in the areas for several years,” it said.
On the price of Malaysian sand being cheaper than that in India, the ministry said it could be due to an abundance of river sand in the country, thus making our sand comparatively cheaper.
“This is a blessing in disguise as it means that we can sell and export our sand in return for economic benefits to all Malaysians,” it said.
Ramasamy said the ministry’s response gave an impression that the export of sand was merely incidental and not the main objective of sand mining in the two rivers.
He asked if the companies that were issued permits to do the mining were selected based on open and competitive tenders.
He also said he regretted the ministry’s stand that it would not entertain further queries on the nature of sand mining in the two states.
“Well, if there is nothing to hide, why the reluctance?” he said. -FMT

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