The Ministry of Mines and Energy yesterday denied that sand dredging is to blame for a riverbank collapse in Phnom Penh’s Chbar Ampov district, where several stupas at the back of a pagoda were damaged due to the collapse.
The ministry’s reaction yesterday came after some residents in Veal Sbov commune pointed their fingers at sand dredging as the cause of the riverbank collapse.
About five stupas were damaged when the riverbank at Kdey Takoy pagoda collapsed on Saturday, leading to families rushing to the pagoda to remove their loved one’s ashes over fear that they would be lost to the river.
The ministry yesterday published a video saying that the riverbank collapse was not caused by sand dredging along the Mekong River as accused.
“Sand dredging is one kilometre away from the scene,” a ministry official said in the video. “The riverbank collapse is due to heavy rains that fell onto new landfill, making the land become loose and causing the riverbank to collapse.”
Environmental activist Meng Heng said he believed the riverbank collapsed due to sand dredging.
“The river bank collapse is not caused by nature. It is caused by sand dredging,” Mr Heng claimed.
Yon Sophal, Veal Sbov commune chief, said the riverbank is no longer collapsing after officials came to examine it and used sandbags to prevent more erosion.
“There is no more collapse. The expert officials are working on it,” she said. “Before it collapsed, it was raining heavily and the land was just filled in a year ago.”
Ms Sophal said that the collapsed area was a new landfill along the river because the people needed it to build stupas for the ashes of their loved ones.
Sour Chon, a member of the Kdey Takoy pagoda committee, said the ashes of loved ones have all been removed from the stupas.
“It is very difficult to contact some families because they live far away. So, the pagoda decided to remove the ashes from the stupas,” Mr Chon said. “Some families came directly to remove the ashes by themselves. Now there are no ashes left in the stupas because we are afraid they will be lost to the river.”
A woman who refused to be identified said that the residents believe the riverbank collapsed because of sand dredging.
“We saw boats dredging sand in this area. We thought that one day the riverbank will definitely collapse. Now it did,” she said.
Another villager who was watching the riverbank yesterday said officials usually denied that the collapse was caused by sand dredging.
“The officials have always denied it. They say it is natural erosion. But in this area, we always see boats dredging sand,” he said.