Extraction of sand along the Mekong and tributaries to feed Phnom Penh’s voracious construction industry appetite is also a serious cause for concern. Despite numerous official orders to ban the practice, every day you will see from Takhmau sand-barges laden one way, empty the other, plying along the banks of the Tonle Bassac. One day I photographed them over several hours and that evidence on its own allowed a renowned international expert to calculate that the “entire annual bedload of the Mekong is being removed by dredging activity”. At the same time river-banks have collapsed, causing deaths and destruction of houses. All of this unchecked exploitation of natural resources is of course an exact copy of the logging of forests and blatant expropriation of land, most obvious in the damage it has done to indigenous ethnic minority communities. So far it has proceeded with complete impunity and without a care for sustainability.
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