India’s Illegal Sand Mining Fuels Boom, Ravages Rivers

Sand mining at River Kaliyar, Thennathoor, Kerala, India. Sand mining is a practice that is an ecological problem as the demand for sand increases in industry and construction. Sand is mined from beaches and inland dunes and dredged from ocean beds and river beds. It is often used in manufacturing as an abrasive, and it is used to make concrete. As communities grow, construction requires less wood and more concrete, leading to a demand for low-cost sand. Photo source: ©© Kadavoor


Dozens of dredging boats scour the bottom of the Vaitarna creek all day as workers build pyramids of excavated sand in the villages along its banks. By night, thousands of trucks clog a narrow highway to deliver the sand to construction sites in the sprawling commercial hub of Mumbai nearby.

The fishing village of Narangi in western India and the sand-mining frenzy there illustrate one of the most important questions India faces in its march to become a 21st-century economic powerhouse: Can this nation of 1.2 billion people pursue economic growth without destroying its environment?

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