A sand dredging boat. Photo by iStock.

Sand has become a big business worldwide and in Vietnam, a group of local people have taken a stand against thieves plundering this precious resource from their area.

Villagers in Ben Tre province in the Mekong Delta have joined hands and formed a vigilante group to fight sand thieves as local authorities have failed to protect this increasingly valuable natural resource.

Ho Thi Be, a 68-year-old local woman, is the oldest member of the vigilante group, VN Express reported.

She may be the oldest member of the team, but she is still a force to be reckoned with – she once broke a sand thief boat’s light with only one shot from her slingshot. She also asked her 36-year-old daughter Tran The Tuyet Nhung to join the team, which was established one year ago and has 13 members, three of them women.

Women are needed on the team as most men in the district travel away to earn money for their families on Doi island. But the daily lives of locals in the area have been constantly disrupted by illegal sand dredging.

The domestic supply of natural sand in Vietnam could be depleted in five years due to excessive exploitation, The Straits Times reported last October, citing Vietnam’s Institute of Transport Science and Technology.

Amid a fast-growing economy, Vietnam needs about 100 million cubic meters of sand per year. Over the last 25 years, sand prices have almost increased six-fold due to rising global demand. China, India, Vietnam and Singapore face sand shortages, according to media reports.

With sand now being a valuable resource, the illegal sand trade has grown, especially in rural areas.

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