The world’s beaches are being mined for sand for a variety of uses (aggregate in concrete, fill, beach renourishment). The practice is often very destructive and poorly managed (or unmanaged). This is a global phenomenon (Morocco, Caribbean Islands, India, South Africa and more). This theft of beach and dune sand is a direct cause of erosion along many shorelines. It is very damaging to the beach fauna and flora, ruinous to beach aesthetics, and frequently causes environmental damage to other coastal ecosystems associated with the beach such as wetlands.
Another major impact of beach sand mining is the loss of protection from storms surges associated with tropical cyclones and tsunamis. Some communities affected by the 2004 tsunami in the Indian Ocean had higher storm surges probably due to beach sand mining resulting in fatalities. Sometimes it is difficult to tell that a beach has been mined. Sand extraction becomes difficult to recognize as the beach readjusts to a new profile after a few storms. But historic accounts of beaches in the Caribbean often reveal that beaches have been narrowed considerably. Mining is particularly senseless in a time of rising sea level when sand is sorely needed as a storm energy buffer.
Surfing in / Sand Mining
Tourism stakeholders in Kenya and local residents of Diani Beach south of Mombasa are up in arms over plans to extract some 5 million tons of sand from award-winning Diani tourist beach.
The Madras High Court has directed the Centre and the Tamil Nadu government to respond to a public interest litigation petition seeking a SIT probe into illegal beach sand mining in the State.
Natural sand from estuary and coastal land is one of South Africa’s most valuable resources. However, there has recently been a drastic increase in uncontrolled and unauthorised sand mining activities in rivers, valleys and estuaries throughout the country.
To those of us who visit beaches only in summer, they seem as permanent a part of our natural heritage as the Rocky Mountains and the Great Lakes. But shore dwellers know differently. Beaches are the most transitory of landscapes, and sand beaches the most vulnerable of all.
A rise in cases of illegal sand mining is being imputed to the requirement of obtaining environment clearance, as mandated in the Deepak Kumar judgment given by the apex court of India.
Competing public interests over the prospect of sand mining off the Vineyard came to the floor during a public discussion hosted by the Martha’s Vineyard Commission late this week.
Concerned over large scale illegal sand mining across states, the Union mines ministry has convened meeting of all States and Union Territories next week to discuss the legal and administrative frameworks in place in each state to govern sand mining and the actual experience of states in handling such cases.
When Superstorm Sandy rolled over the Jersey shore, it washed away some 20 million cubic yards of beach sand. Replacing that resource is not optional, many believe, because decimated beaches kill tourism economies and leave coastal areas more vulnerable to damage from the next storm.
Sand is becoming so scarce that stealing it has become an attractive business model. With residential towers rising ever higher and development continuing apace in Asia and Africa, demand for the finite resource is insatiable.