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
The scale of the projects is dizzying. Country Garden’s Forest City, on four artificial islands, will house 700,000 people on an area four times the size of New York’s Central Park.
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In the Samoan island of Upolu, a villager is reporting seeing myriads of trucks loaded with sand mined from local beaches.
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According to scientists, sand mining is a direct threat to all the beaches of the peninsula, as in the south-west and on the east coast.
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Beaches are built one truckload at a time as the main ingredient in the State’s beach renourishemnt program – offshore sand – gets harder to find.
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Miami Beach has run out of sand. Now what?
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In mainland Tanzania, in comparison to Zanzibar, sand mining is done mainly along the coast and in river beds. This does a great deal of damage because it destabilizes the river banks and may collapse any bridges along them. On the contrary, mining in Zanzibar is generally done on the coastal beaches or in the hinterland areas that are richer in available sand.
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Legal and illegal mining has become a serious concern over the past five years in Indonesia. Such exploitation of natural resources has contributed to a number of human rights violations in Indonesia, such as murder, torture, attacks, illegal detention, land grabbing and forced eviction.
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Environmentalist, freelance journalist, photographer and author Pankaj Sekhsaria has spent 20 years studying and fighting for the ecology of the Andaman and Nicobar islands. His first fiction novel ‘Last Wave’ about these islands, published in 2014, is getting released in Goa along with his photo exhibition.
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Nearly 50 civil society organizations called for the Cambodian government to join some other Southeast Asian nations and ban or severely restrict exports of sand to Singapore after it was revealed that nearly $750 million worth of the building material has disappeared from the country.
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