Al-Jazeera Documentary Reveals Fake Singapore Companies Set Up To Obtain Sand Illegally

According to Qatari news network Al-Jazeera, Singapore might not be the clean and green country it makes itself out to be.

Now if you are wondering what the news network is talking about, we have only one word for you: sand.

In an article on 14 Dec, the Qatari news network discussed how sand is one of the most-consumed natural resources in the world. The high demand for this unassuming natural resource has led to the rapid depletion of nearly “three-quarters of the world’s beaches”.

This depletion coupled with the environmental destruction caused by dredging sand from the bottom of rivers and seas has caused some countries to ban the export of sand. Despite the environmental consequences and the ban on sand, Al-Jazeera claims that Singapore will do just about anything to overcome these hurdles to obtain the soil it needs – including purchasing it illegally.

All these in a new 47-minute Al-Jazeera documentary, but we’ve picked out the good parts below.

Singapore’s thirst for sand

It is no secret that Singapore has been importing sand for the longest time and is one of the world’s largest importer of sand, according to reports.

The country has been importing sand for two main purposes – construction and land reclamation projects.

According to this documentary, Singapore has already expanded nearly 130 square kilometers of land since 1950 and is planning to add another 100 square kilometers by 2030. They also talk about other cities that consume literally tons of sand such as Dubai, but Singapore is repeatedly mentioned.

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With our country devoid of the natural resource, we imported sand from neighbouring countries such as Malaysia and Indonesia, though the former stopped selling sand to us in 1997.

However, our country’s importation of sand hit a major snag in 2007 when Indonesia, whom we imported nearly 90% of our sand from, issued a ban on the export of land sand to Singapore due to environmental degradation.

Sandstorm of accusations

Further, neighbours Cambodia and Vietnam have separately banned the export of sand to Singapore.

However, according to the documentary, sand barges still arrive at the Port of Singapore on a daily basis.

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When quizzed where the sand comes from, a barge captain revealed that the sand he was helping to transport comes from Cambodia and Indonesia.

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This puzzled us. After all, didn’t these countries ban sand exports to Singapore?

After doing some research, we discovered that Cambodia still allowed “export from areas where sand was replenished regularly”.

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Ah well. This means that Singapore’s name is cleared right? Well, not quite.

The truth was stretched?

The barge captain revealed that while he was Indonesian, he was working for an unnamed Singaporean company.

Al-Jazeera then decided to investigate these sand importing companies but found that some of them were dubious.

At 13.17 in the video, a journalist is seen paying a visit to one of these dubious companies at the address given. Based on the video, it looks like the office is located in Singapore.

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However, he discovered that the address was false.

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Instead, the journalist found a pilates studio.

Dubious indeed.

The truth is shrouded

The previous time the Singapore Government had to face such accusations, they argued that contractors,

“must source sand from legally permissible areas, comply with all the environmental protection laws of the source country, and have the proper sand export documentation and permits from the relevant authorities in the source countries”.

However, given that Singapore’s sand imports being shrouded in mystery, George Boden, a campaigner and researcher for Global Witness had this to say:

“The sand trade in Singapore is hugely hypocritical, it’s a massive hypocrisy as far as we are concerned. The state has build itself as an environmental leader in the region – particularly within ASEAN, they have held global summits. But their companies, who are bringing in imports for their country contribute to human rights violations, environmental degradation and damages the livelihood of local people [whom the sand is taken from]”.

While we can’t fully agree with Mr Boden, we have to agree that the entire industry has got us puzzled.

Time to come clean

Until the Singapore government is able to prove that country is importing sand from sustainable and legal means, this cloud of accusation will continue to linger and taint our reputation as a an environmental leader and an uncorrupt regime.

However, given Al-Jazeera’s recent revelation it seems that Singapore’s reputation won’t be clearing up anytime soon.

Featured image from Al-Jazeera.