On 23 January 2007, Indonesia announced its decision to impose a ban on the export of land sand to Singapore amid fears that sand extraction activities were leading to environmental degradation. The ban took effect on 6 February 2007. At the time, Singapore was importing six to eight million tonnes of sand, with more than 90 percent coming from Indonesia. As sand is a raw material in concrete, there were concerns that the sudden curtailment would disrupt the local construction sector which was rebounding due to major projects such as the construction of the integrated resorts and the Circle Line of the Mass Rapid Transit (MRT) system.
Although environmental protection was the official reason given by the Indonesian authorities, various Indonesian media cited unresolved bilateral issues on border delineation and the signing of an extradition treaty as the main motivations behind the ban. Among the assertions made was that the large amounts of sand mined from nearby Indonesian islands, which were exported to Singapore for land reclamation, were affecting Indonesia’s maritime boundaries. Singapore was also criticised as being slow in concluding talks on border issues and the extradition treaty. Indonesia saw the extradition treaty as a necessary tool in its fight against corruption as many of its citizens involved in corruption cases had fled to Singapore in order to evade persecution, and were parking their alleged ill-gotten gains there.
In response to these claims, the Singapore government clarified that the sand imported was taken from the inland areas of Indonesia away from its borders, and was legally purchased for construction. Singapore had not used sea sand from Indonesia for land reclamation works since the ban on sea sand by the country in February 2003. In addition, Singapore’s maritime boundaries with Indonesia had been established under the 1973 Agreement Stipulating the Territorial Sea Boundary Lines Between Indonesia and the Republic of Singapore in the Straits of Singapore with the exception of some waters near the junctions of Singapore, Indonesia and Malaysia. The reclamation works were carried out within Singapore’s territorial waters. On the issue of the extradition treaty, the Singapore government pointed out that current Prime Minister Lee Hsien Loong and current Indonesian President Susilo Bambang Yudhoyono had agreed in 2005 that the extradition treaty and the Defence Cooperation Agreement between the two countries would be negotiated together.
The Singapore government’s immediate response to the sand shortage was to release its national stockpile of sand to the market. The government also bore 75 percent of the price increases of sand for public projects, began looking for alternative sources of sand from other regional countries, and reduced its dependency on sand by using more steel, aluminium and glass in construction. The Extradition Treaty and the Defence Cooperation Agreement between Singapore and Indonesia, which had been in the works for two years, were formalised on 27 April 2007.
1. Azhar Ghani. (2007, January 25). Jakarta bans sand exports, cutting off S’pore’s main supply. The Straits Times, p. 1. Retrieved from NewspaperSG; Shankari, U. (2007, January 25). New BCA push for alternatives to Indon sand. The Business Times, p. 9; Azhar Ghani. (2007, February 5). Sand ban ‘linked to bilateral issues with S’pore’. The Straits Times, p. 12. Retrieved from NewspaperSG.
2. The Straits Times, 5 Feb 2007, p. 12.
3. Lee, U. (2007, February 3). Sand ‘glitch’ won’t hurt IR construction. Today, p. 4; Vijayan, K. C. (2007, May 18). Judges advises mediation in row over concrete. The Straits Times, p. H8. Retrieved from NewspaperSG.
4. Abdul Khalik. (2007, February 16). Sand ban seen as pressuring Singapore. The Jakarta Post. Retrieved March 21, 2014 from Factiva database; Abdul Khalik. (2007, February 13). RI dismisses criticism of sand export ban. The Jakarta Post. Retrieved March 21, 2014, from Factiva database; Abdul Khalik. (2007, March 3). Singapore told no sand until border disputes resolved. The Jakarta Post. Retrieved March 21, 2014, from Factiva database; Ardimas Sasdi (2007, February 26). Singapore will never sign a treaty with RI. Retrieved March 21, 2014, from Factiva database.
5. Singapore. Parliament. Parliamentary Debates: Official Report. (2007, February 12). Oral answers to questions: Indonesia’s export ban on sand and soil products (Vol. 82, col. 1204). Retrieved March 21, 2014, from Parliament of Singapore website: http://sprs.parl.gov.sg/search/report.jsp?currentPubID=00004728-WA; Singapore. Parliament. Parliamentary Debates: Official Report. (2007, February 12). Oral answers to questions: Mining of sand (Impact on maritime boundaries) (Vol. 82, cols. 1213–1219). Retrieved March 21, 2014, from Parliament of Singaporewebsite: http://sprs.parl.gov.sg/search/report.jsp?currentPubID=00004728-WA; Shankari, U. (2007, February 20). S’pore disappointed by Indon report: MFA. The Business Times, p. 2. Retrieved from NewspaperSG.
6. Ministry of National Development. (2007, July 25). Speech by Ms Grace Fu, Minister of State for National Development at the Temasek Seminar on 25 Jul 2007 at the SAFTI MI OCS main auditorium. Retrieved March 21, 2014, from MND website: http://internet-stg.mnd.gov.sg/newsroom/Speeches/speeches_2007_MOS_25072007.htm
7. Lim, L. (2007, April 28). ‘Good, fair package’: Singapore and Indonesia ink extradition, defence pacts. The Straits Times, p. 1. Retrieved from NewspaperSG.
The information in this article is valid as at 2014 and correct as far as we are able to ascertain from our sources. It is not intended to be an exhaustive or complete history of the subject. Please contact the Library for further reading materials on the topic.