Indonesia scraps ban on sea sand exports and it is a big boon for Singapore

JAKARTA, May 29 (Reuters): Indonesia has lifted a 20-year-old ban on sea sand exports, a copy of a government regulation showed, a measure that could help land expansion projects in neighbour Singapore, but with concern among environmentalists about marine habitats.

Indonesia first scrapped sea sand exports in 2003 and reaffirmed that in 2007 in a move against illegal shipments.

Before the ban, Indonesia was Singapore's major supplier of sea sand for land expansion, shipping more than 53 million tonnes on average per year between 1997 to 2002.

According to a United Nations report in 2019, the city-state was the world's largest sea sand importer and in the preceding two decades had shipped in 517 million tonnes of sand from its neighbours.

Malaysia banned the export of sea sand in 2019, when it was by far Singapore's biggest supplier.

Indonesian President Joko Widodo lifted the export ban in a regulation on marine sediment management issued earlier this month. It gave no reason for lifting the ban. Singapore's development ministry did not immediately respond to a request for comment.

Wahyu Muryadi, a spokesperson for the Ministry of Marine Affairs and Fisheries, said the purpose of the regulation was to ensure sand mining meets environmental standards and that exports would only be allowed after domestic demand is met.

Singapore's Maritime and Port Authority is currently planning and designing the third phase of its Tuas Port mega project, with reclamation work expected to be completed in the mid-2030s.

Indonesia's ban had been a bone of contention between Indonesia and Singapore, which in 2007 accused Jakarta of using it to pressure its government in negotiations on an extradition treaty and border delineation. An extradition treaty was signed last year.

Parid Ridwanuddin, a campaigner at Indonesian Forum for the Environment (Walhi), said the regulation contradicted the government's commitment to a healthier sea ecosystem, while Greenpeace Indonesia researcher Afdillah Chudiel said sea sand mining could speed up the climate crisis.

"It will accelerate the sinking of small islands and coastal abrasion," he said. - Reuters

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