Eco-Business wins SOPA 2023 media award for podcast on secrecy surrounding sand extraction in Singapore

Its ‘Shifting Sands’ podcast got an honourable mention under the Excellence in Audio Reporting category at the annual journalism gala run by the Society of Publishers in Asia.

Sopa broadcast 2023
Former correspondent Sonia Sambhi spoke to Madhumitha Ardhanari, senior sustainability strategist at non-profit Forum for the Future, on the narratives surrouding the topic of sand extraction in Singapore. Image: Liang Lei / Eco-Business

Eco-Business has earned a Honourable Mention nod at the Society for Publishers of Asia (SOPA) 2023 Awards for its coverage of the controversy surrounding sand extraction in Singapore. 

SOPA, founded in Hong Kong in 1982, gives out the yearly awards to reward independent journalism and promote press freedom. The awards, open to entry nominations from global and regional outlets, attracts submissions from the world’s largest media publications. 

A total of 104 awards were given out in this year’s awards.

One category that was added last year was the Excellence in Audio Reporting award. This year, Eco-Business’ podcast on sand extraction in Singapore clinched a Honourable Mention award under the category’s Regional/Local subcategory. 

In the podcast, former Eco-Business correspondent Sonia Sambhi, speaks to Madhumitha Ardhanari, principal sustainability strategist at Forum for the Future, a sustainability non-profit, to understand how the invisibility of sand contributes to its secrecy in Singapore, the world’s biggest sand importer. 

The dredging of sand and its corresponding negative impacts often happen outside of Singapore, in source countries such as Malaysia, Vietnam, and Indonesia.

The duo discussed how land reclamation became a huge part of Singapore’s growth story, and the narratives that surround sand in Singapore, including how growth is often taken for granted in the city state.

Judges for the SOPA media awards said: “The politics of sand, and the environmental impact of excavating it for use in land reclamation and construction, is an important and undercovered set of issues.” 

SOPA awards gala

Assistant editor of EB Studio at Eco-Business Jeremy Chan, who is based in Hong Kong, received the award on behalf of the media publication. Image: Eco-Business

“This podcast brought to light specifics for the local audience that would draw them in, making the content more relevant and thought-provoking. The well-prepared host accesses the guest’s expertise,” the judges added.

Sambhi, who hosted the podcast, said her personal interest in the topic of sand and land reclamation was through learning that Singapore’s sand supply comes at the expense of local and often remote communities living across Southeast Asia. 

“The more I dug, the more I found it peculiar that the topic of sand is rarely talked about, despite the fact that Singapore is the world’s largest importer of sand,” she said. Sambhi also expressed appreciation for Ardhanari’s participation in the discussion. “She shared so openly about her research…and revealed to me the ways in which the stories around sand are woven, and how she thinks the topic has deliberately been kept invisible.” 

Debuting in December 2017, the EB podcast covers a diversity of topics that challenge Asia’s sustainability community to think differently about the world. Issues discussed cut across environment, cleantech, food and agriculture, and corporate social responsibility. 

Assistant editor of Eco-Business Ng Wai Mun said: “Around the world, there is concern that climate reporting is too bleak for the general public, but we have found that what is key for media publishers is that we continue to innovate and experiment with various formats to capture the audience’s interest. Podcast journalism has been an effective mode of engagement and we are honoured to be recognised at the prestigious global awards.”

Other environmental pieces that won recognition at the SOPA 2023 Awards include Insider News’ explanatory video on why miners risk their lives to get sulphur from an active volcano, which clinched an Award for Excellence under the  Excellence in Video Reporting category (Global), and Rest of World’s feature story on how China’s electric vehicle boom is ravaging the environment. The latter went home with an Award for Excellence under the Excellence in Feature Writing Category (Regional/Local). 

Global winners include Bloomberg News, The Economist, The Wall Street Journal, and The Washington Post.

Eco-Business also scored a finalist nod for its special report on nickel mining’s environmental impact in Southeast Asia. 

For more of Eco-Business podcasts, click here or subscribe to our weekly newsletter for latest updates. 

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