Singapore firm proposes to Bangladesh for deal to dredge rivers in exchange for excavated sand

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Bangladesh' Water Resources Minister Anisul Islam Mahmud told reporters on Sunday (5 March) that a discussion in underway with a Singaporean company, on the dredging of its rivers in exchange for the excavated sand.

He said that Bangladesh' Government was trying to have some of the big rivers dredged experimentally by foreigners, saying, "They (Singapore's company) will take away the excavated sand, and as everything has a value, they will pay for it."

The Minister said that the proposal is being scrutinised. However, he did not mention the firm's name.

He stated that a discussion is underway, adding that it is still not final yet. Some countries have proposed to take away the excavated soil. So, we are now conducting experiments in some areas to check whether it causes any harm," the minister said.

He also noted that some countries have proposed to take away the excavated soil, saying, "So, we are now conducting experiments in some areas to check whether it causes any harm."

However, Mr Anisul said that a survey found that Tk 9 trillion (S$158.3 million) will be needed to dredge all the big rivers. "It's not possible for us to manage this much money now."

"It's not possible for us to manage this much money now," he stressed, arguing in the favour of the project.

He then added that managing the excavated silt is also a major problem for us, saying that these dredged sediments again mix up with river water during rains.

"The money will also be needed to keep the silt on anybody's land," he added.

Therefore, the Minister said that having the rivers dredged by the foreigners in exchange for the sand will solve the problem.

According to him, the cost of dredging is Tk 160 to 200 (S$2.81 to S$3.52) per cubic metre.

Stressing that its Government to check first whether the project would negatively affect our environment, he said that the proposed project would start from the river Jamuna which carries half a billion tonnes of silt into Bangladesh every year.

Since 2011, Myanmar exported sand to Singapore, which caused serious environmental degradation to the source country.

Eleven, the news outlet, reported in 2014 that in a 3 three years span, more than four million cubic meters of sand have been exported to Singapore.

Concerns of environmental degradation have made several South-east Asian countries ban the export of sand because of environmental damage caused by dredging in ecologically sensitive coastal areas.

Indonesia, Malaysia, Vietnam and Cambodia impose such bans.

In 2010, Singapore was accused of hurting Cambodia’s environment with its demands for sand, through illegal trade by smugglers.

Global Witness, an international non-governmental organisation for the environment, said Singapore’s failure "to mitigate the social and ecological cost of sand dredging represents hypocrisy on a grand scale."

"If Singapore wants its environmental stance to be taken seriously, monitoring where the sand is sourced and what is being done to obtain it would be an obvious place to start," the Organisation said.

However, Singapore's authorities promptly issued a statement to deny the accusations. It said that the country is “committed to the protection of the global environment.”

It claimed that “it does not condone the illegal export or smuggling of sand, or any extraction of sand that is in breach of the source countries’ laws and rules on environmental protection.”

One of the main purposes for the high demand for sand from Singapore is land reclamation.