Environmental News Archive

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Indonesia's sand ban not a matter of life and death: PM Lee

By S Ramesh, Channel NewsAsia
17 March 2007

SINGAPORE: Indonesia's decision to ban the sale of sand to Singapore is not a matter of life and death for the Republic, said Prime Minister Lee Hsien Loong.

Giving his views on the Indonesian decision, he told a group of journalists from the Japanese media that it is, however, an opportunity lost for economic cooperation, which hurts both sides.

Mr Lee said it is unfortunate that this problem has come up.

Prime Minister Lee noted that the official explanations from Indonesia for banning the sale of sand were concern over the environment and that it had nothing to do with other issues which both countries are negotiating.

These are the extradition treaty and the defence cooperation agreement or the ongoing talks on boundary demarcation.

Singapore accepts these explanations and hopes over time the matter will stabilise and cooperation will be resumed.

At its end, Mr Lee said Singapore has a stockpile which would last for a considerable time.

The government has also started importing sand from other sources and the flow has already begun.

But it would take a while for the full flow to resume to the amount needed for construction works, but it is in progress.

Mr Lee said the cost would be higher than importing from Indonesia, but quite bearable as total construction costs are expected to increase by only two or three percent.

He went on to say that if sand is going to cost more, there is potential to use less sand and concrete in construction, and go for more efficient processes, steel and dry walls.

Mr Lee cited the example of Japan where companies use steel, adding that if Japan can do it, there is no reason why Singapore companies cannot.

- CNA/so