Vietnam’s construction sector has been booming during the last decade, showing a vast growth of 6.5- 10% during 2000-2009, associated to a rapid increase in the development of industrial zones, residential areas, road construction, as well as sanitation and irrigation infrastructures. The rapid growth of the construction sector has been closely correlated with growing demand for river sand, coming from both legal and illegal river sand mining activities .
In Bac Ninh province, sand mining has occurred since many years, however sky-rocketed particularly since the year 2000, when the construction boom started there and the province’s urban population increased more than fivefold, from 4.3% in 1995, to 23.6% in 2009. The large demand of river sand for Bac Ninh’s construction industry has provoked drastic increases in illegal sand mining along the large Cau River, of which 70km flow through the province. Being an important branch in the Thai Bing River system, the Cau River is a relevant part of the water system in Northern Vietnam, increasingly under threat by sand mining. It has been reported that there are much more sand miners are active, than permissions granted. Moreover, those who have a permit surpass by far the legal limit they are allowed to mine. Consequently in 2009, the provincial authority placed a moratorium on sand mining throughout the province, denying any further permits; however this could not stop the illegal business .
Illegal sand mining is causing large environmental and socio-economic impacts. Regarding the first, main impacts include riverbank erosion and degradation; lowering of water tables; removing of organic matter relevant to aquatic organisms; changing water flow dynamics and temperature associated to a loss of aquatic habitats; siltation and noise pollution. Regarding the second, impacts include damages to bridges and nearby road; damages to irrigation works; damages to nearby houses and residential areas; as well as reduced fish stock; loss of river dikes and associated agricultural areas. Studies  have shown that the economic costs caused by sand mining along the Cau River exceed by far the benefits. But most importantly, while the environmental and economic costs of sand mining are carried by the local population of Bac Ninh, the large benefits associated to the illegal activities are appropriate by just a few actors.
Governmental efforts to control illegal sand mining along the Cau River have largely failed due to inadequate legal frameworks, lack of resources, unclear responsibilities and lack of coordination between local authorities. For example in 2009, only five inspections were conducted . Local communes, in collaboration with local authorities have set up their own surveillance teams to watch illegal sand mining that increasingly occurs during nights. But due to corruption, miners often know in advance when and where surveillance teams watch the river, avoiding possible encounters. Moreover, sand miners are increasingly armed, making the potential encounters with local surveillance teams a dangerous issue .
So far, illegal sand mining continues along the Cau River, satisfying society's growing metabolism of construction materials, caused by a rapid urbanization process.