Illegal sand exploiters have been wreaking havoc on four major rivers in the northern coastal province of Thai Binh , says a probing report by the Vietnam News Agency.

Around 160 boats regularly exploit and transport sand on these rivers, causing erosion and social disruption, while obstructing the waterway. The annual loss is estimated at 20 billion VND (956,000 USD).

At present, waterway police are confined to punishing boats that violate waterway traffic safety, but only inter-agency forces have the legal authority to stop illegal sand exploitation activities.

According to the Thai Binh Waterway Police, there was no room to hold impounded boats, due to their bulky nature.

Trieu Van Phung, chairman of the People's Committee of Kien Xuong district's Hong Thai commune, a hot spot for illegal sand exploiting, said his commune had sent special forces to approach offenders on numerous ocassions, but this measure had proved fruitless.

Deputy chairman of the Kien Xuong District People's Committee Nguyen Manh Luc said that one difficulty that hindered law enforcement forces was the nocturnal routine of the exploiters and their sporadic schedule.

Intense crackdowns, during which hundreds of offenders were apprehended, may have helped a little, but their impacts had been minimal as offenders continued to disregard the law.

Local residents were concerned that if the situation was not resolved, it could result in a dyke collapse. /.