Navy Seizes Sand-Smuggling Boats

JAKARTA ~ The Navy has seized three boats and four barges caught smuggling sand to neighboring Singapore, state media said.

Last month, the government banned the export of sand, annoying Singapore, which requires sand for its booming construction industry and land reclamation and has virtually no natural resources of its own.

The boats were carrying more than 10,000 cubic meters of sand, the Antara news agency said.

It was the second time the navy has caught sand smugglers since the ban came into force on February 5.

The Navy has said it would step up patrols in the Riau strait, near Singapore. Most of the sand exports to Singapore are taken from Riau islands.

Environmentalists have said sand mining in several areas, especially in the Riau islands, had caused the extinction of several fish species, destruction of coral reefs and the disappearance of a number of small islands.

Singapore has expressed disappointment with the ban and said Indonesian claims of environmental damage and the potential impact on its boundaries “are not justified.”

Jakarta imposed the ban on sand excavated from land last month, but gave contractors until February 5 to honor existing contracts. Land sand is an ingredient for the concrete used in buildings.

The latest prohibition followed Indonesia’s February 2003 ban on the export to Singapore of sea sand, used for land reclamation.

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