Illegal Sea Sand Dredging Leaves Behind Environmental Mess, China

Posted In News, Sand Mining

Qingdao Beach, Shandong Province, China. Photo Source: Flicker

By Liang Chen, Global Times China

The city of Qingdao in Shandong Province is known for its sandy beaches, wild beer festival and its unique architecture. But recent visitors might have noticed something else: ugly dredging vessels pumping sea sand to be used for construction projects.

Boats deliver the sand to construction sites including airports, highways and homes.

The country’s economic boom has triggered unprecedented number of construction projects, and thus the demand for sand, a key element for making concrete.

The regular supply of sand has almost run out and many construction firms have been using sand from the sea, many doing so against the law, and leaving behind an environmental mess. But some observers say it is not so difficult to steal sand, thanks to poor enforcement.

“Shockingly, these dredging boats go out to pump sand the next day right after they were punished,” an anonymous worker in the Qingdao Development Zone told, China Youth Daily.

Since mid-May, local authorities in Shandong, Guangdong, Hebei, and Liaoning provinces have worked together to fight against the illegal dredging that often takes place in the open.

However, such action has proven ineffective. Yuan Xiaojun, the vice director at the Institution of Qingdao Marine Geology under China Geological Survey Bureau, told the Global Times that such exploitation has brought disaster to the maritime envi-ronment, and significant loss of tax revenue to the country.

Ni Jianmin, an official in Huangdao district, said the maritime environment in the district has worsened in recent years, affecting the inhabitant for fish and crabs.

The coastline in Rizhao, Shandong, has retreated more than 100 meters, China Youth Daily reported last week.

“The ocean sand is a non-renewable resource and excessive exploitation will definitely lead to the collapse of the seabed and significantly damage the sea’s ecological resources,” said Liu Wukai, vice director of Oceanic and Fisheries Bureau of Guangdong Province.

Liu said excessive dredging is eroding the beach.

He blamed overlapping agencies for passing the buck and failing to stop the illegal activity. “Too many departments easily cause an administrative vacuum in law enforcement sometime,” he told the Global Times.

Local law enforcement officials tracked down a Jiangsu dredging boat in Qingdao after it was suspected of doing illegal sea sand dredging on July 2, only three days after it was fined 150,000 yuan ($22,564) for the same reason.

According to the Legal Daily, more than 50 dredging boats operate along the west bank in Jiaozhou Bay, which is on the western coast of the Yellow Sea.

The Beijing News reported earlier that reclamation projects around the Bohai Sea will require millions of tons of sand. In Tianjin Bay alone, 200 million tons are needed.

Zhu Lei, a doctorate student at Beijing Forestry University, told the Global Times that most of the sea sand needed for Bohai Bay is from Hebei, Guangdong and Shandong provinces.

Song Jihua, vice director of Yantai Oceanic Fishery Bureau in Shandong Province, told the Beijing News that sea sand in Laizhou, Shandong Province, sells for 15 yuan ($2.2) per ton. However, it could go up to 60 yuan ($8.8) in Tianjin Bay.

An unnamed officer from a law enforcement department in Huangdao district, Qingdao, told China Youth Daily that the illegal dredgers often get a heads up before police arrive.

Some property developers collude with the seller of the sea sand, Guangdong-based Nanfang Daily reported.

Despite the fact that illegal sea sand dredging is subject to a maximum fine of 200,000 yuan ($30,085), the lucrative business remains attractive to many illegal dredgers.

“One dredging boat can earn about 1 million yuan ($150,247) for a single night’s work, and they are difficult to be seized since they work at night,” Liu Huirong, a professor from the Ocean University of China, told the Global Times.

Liu said a unified supervision and management system involving various agencies could work. The penalty should be more severe.

There is no maritime law that stipulates the legal liability of such an offense. “The government should take the destruction of maritime ecology into account when writing new laws, and the those who break the law should also take responsibility for rebuilding the sea environment,” Liu said.

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