Singapore must help Indonesia curb illegal sand mining, activists say
Saturday, July 27, 2002

Adianto P. Simamora, The Jakarta Post, Jakarta

The government should seek to forge a bilateral cooperation with Singapore to curb illegal sand mining here, which has caused serious damage to the environment, a legislator and an environmental activist said.

"The best way to end illegal sand quarrying is to establish bilateral cooperation between the two countries," Priyo Budi Santoso, a legislator on House of Representatives Commission VIII for mining, energy and environmental affairs, told The Jakarta Post on Friday.

Raja Siregar, a senior official with the Indonesian Forum for the Environment (Walhi), agreed, saying the Singapore government must play a role in the fight because much of the illegally quarried sand eventually found its way to the island state.

The comments from the two experts come after the government quietly issued a presidential decree in May that effectively allows sand exports to Singapore.

The government temporarily banned sand quarrying and the export of sand in February, in response to protests from environmentalists that sand mining in the waters off Riau province had damaged the marine environment. All of the sand extracted off Riau, both legally and illegally, was exported to Singapore, which used the commodity for coastal reclamation projects.

Under Presidential Decree No. 33/2002, sea sand quarrying is to be controlled and supervised by the central government, through a special team led by the Ministry of Maritime Affairs and Fisheries.

The decree states that all sand exports require a permit from the central government, via the Ministry of Trade and Industry.

The special government team is also expected to take measures to help protect the marine environment, including through zoning mechanisms.

Since the issuance of the presidential decree in May, the Ministry of Trade and Industry has issued 71 licenses to sand exporters, and some 3.7 million cubic meters of sand has been exported to Singapore from Riau.

Walhi's Raja said the Singapore government must publish the volume of its sand imports from Indonesia, to help ensure that no illegally mined sand enters the island state, which has been aggressive in expanding its land area.

"This requires bilateral cooperation between the two governments," he said, adding that both Indonesia and Singapore must take strict action against those involved in illegal sand mining.

Priyo also said sand exports to Singapore largely benefited the island state because the Indonesian sand was sold at very low prices.

"This is not fair," he said, adding that the government must interfere in the sand exports by setting a high floor price.

Singapore is estimated to require some 1.8 billion cubic meters of sand over the next eight years for its land reclamation work.

Riau has been exporting sand to Singapore for many years. The sand is sold for S$1.5 per cubic meter to international brokers, who then sell the sand to Singapore construction firms for S$15 per cubic meter.

The uncontrolled sand extraction from the coastal areas of Riau has caused severe environmental damage, leading to the disappearance of a number of small islets from the province.

The government and the Riau provincial administration previously announced several measures to curb the illegal sand quarrying. However, these measures failed to halt the quarrying, which is believed to be backed by military people and international syndicates.

In February, three ministers -- Minister of Trade and Industry Rini MS Soewandi, Minister of Maritime Affairs and Fisheries Rokhmin Damhuri and State Minister for the Environment Nabiel Makarim -- signed a decree temporarily banning sand quarrying and exports to Singapore until measures to protect the environment were in place.


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