Vietnam may 'run out of sand in 5 years'

Boats on Hanoi's Red River transporting sand in August. Vietnam needs about 100 million cubic metres of sand every year for construction projects. With over-exploitation threatening to deplete the domestic supply of natural sand, the authorities are
Boats on Hanoi's Red River transporting sand in August. Vietnam needs about 100 million cubic metres of sand every year for construction projects. With over-exploitation threatening to deplete the domestic supply of natural sand, the authorities are looking at producing artificial sand.PHOTO: AGENCE FRANCE-PRESSE

HANOI • The Vietnamese authorities are looking at producing artificial sand amid warnings by experts that the country could run out of sand within five years due to over-exploitation of the natural product, local media reported.

Scientists from the country's Institute of Transport Science and Technology warned last week that the domestic supply of natural sand was nearing an end and could be depleted in five years due to excessive exploitation.

Vietnam needs about 100 million cubic metres of sand every year for construction projects across the fast-growing country.

According to the scientists, the cost of man-made sand is also an advantage as ground rock can be 10 per cent to 15 per cent cheaper than natural sand.

Prices of natural sand have skyrocketed in the past six months after a massive crackdown on the illegal sand-dredging industry.

That created a shortfall in the supply of sand, leading to a 200 per cent rise in prices that have shown no signs of easing.

Several infrastructure projects have struggled to find new supplies as many are on the verge of exceeding their planned investments.

The institute had met last week with the Ho Chi Minh City Department of Transport to discuss new construction materials for its infrastructure projects.

Mr Nguyen Thanh Nam, director of the Ha Noi Highway project in Ho Chi Minh City, said works to upgrade and expand the highway were in trouble due to the price hike.

"We are looking for more detailed information (on industrial sand). If the sand meets the standard, we will use it to pave the sidewalks of the Ha Noi Highway," he said.

Sand along the country's local rivers have long been exported to many foreign countries.

The government has ordered the Ministry of Construction to cease sand exports.

Investors at the meeting asked the institute to announce the official price of the industrial sand and other criteria regarding the quality to be used as a legal basis to design and build transport projects.

VIET NAM NEWS/ASIA NEWS NETWORK

A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Straits Times on October 26, 2017, with the headline 'Vietnam may 'run out of sand in 5 years''. Print Edition | Subscribe