Vast aspen forests on the sandy soil along the coast in the central Vietnamese province of Quang Ngai, which act as the shield from strong winds, high waves, and storms, have been uprooted for the illegal exploitation of sand.
The trees, scientifically named populous adenopoda, have grown into forests to protect the coastal villages in Pho An Commune of Duc Pho District for half a century, covering a total area of 310 hectares.
But the forests have been chopped down for the mining of sand for construction, regardless of locals’ protests.
Residents in An Tho Village said the illegal sand exploitation often takes place at night.
Authorities and locals have set up fences to prevent such ‘sand theft’ but it has not proven much effective.
Trucks carrying illegal sand may stop working for a while if the exploiters face strong opposition from local residents and resume working when the anger abates.
An An Tho villager said, “Sand here is exploited excessively. That’s a painful fact.”
Others said they have seen trucks carrying sand plough up the streets at night for many years but no one has ever looked into the situation.
Nguyen Tan My, deputy chairman of the Pho An Commune People’s Committee, said local authorities have put together a patrol team to prevent the illegal exploitation and fine violators but the mining has still occurred.
More than ten people have been punished and fined at least VND2 million (US$93) each so far.
“The sand exploitation has intensified in the last ten days,” My said. “Authorities are planning to allow locals to mine sand just enough for their own construction under officials’ supervision.”
The authorities are also mulling over assigning villages to monitor their forests, My added.