Coastal sand mining, whether legal or illegal, poses one of the biggest threats to our environment. Analyze the impact of sand mining along the Indians coasts, citing specific examples. (UPSC MAINS GS3 2019)
The United Nations Environment Programme (UNEP) has released a report, Sand and Sustainability: Finding new solutions for environmental governance of global sand resources, that highlights a problem that the sand has been extracted at rates exceeding natural replenishment rates.
Coastal sand mining poses one of the biggest threats to our environment:
- While 85% to 90% of global sand demand is met from quarries, and sand and gravel pits, 10% to 15% extracted from rivers and seashores is a severe concern due the environmental and social impacts.
- Their extraction often results in river and coastal erosion and threats to freshwater and marine fisheries and aquatic ecosystems, instability of river banks leading to increased flooding, and lowering of groundwater levels.
- The UNEP report notes that China and India head the list of critical hotspots for sand extraction impacts in rivers, lakes and coastlines.
- As per the report, most large rivers of the world have lost between half and 95% of their natural sand and gravel delivery to ocean.
- The damming of rivers for hydro-electricity production or irrigation is reducing the amount of sediment flowing downstream.
- This broken replenishment system exacerbates pressures on beaches already threatened by sea level rise and intensity of storm-waves induced by climate change, as well as coastal developments.
- Depletion of sand in the streambed and along coastal areas causes the deepening of rivers and estuaries, and the enlargement of river mouths and coastal inlets.
- It may also lead to saline-water intrusion from the nearby sea. The effect of mining is compounded by the effect of sea level rise. Any volume of sand exported from streambeds and coastal areas is a loss to the system.
- It is also a threat to bridges, river banks and nearby structures.
- Sand mining also affects the adjoining groundwater system and the uses that local people make of the river.
- Their extraction often results in river and coastal erosion and threats to freshwater and marine fisheries and aquatic ecosystems, instability of river banks leading to increased flooding, and lowering of ground water levels.
- Disturbance of underwater and coastal sand causes turbidity in the water, which is harmful for organisms such as corals that need sunlight.
- The indiscriminate mining has also destroyed hills, eroded biodiversity spheres, denuded forests and degraded fertile soil thereby impacting the socioeconomic condition of local people.
Sand mining in coastal Kerala is swallowing villages and displacing thousands
- A village named Panmana has turned in to a heap of sand and an abandoned temple stands, around which thousands of fishermen once lived.
- In Alappad panchayat, activists estimate that more than 6,000 fishermen families have vacated over the years due to beach erosion, drinking water scarcity and lack of fish availability.
- Most of the people have been forced to leave their houses, even without any compensation from the authorities or the mining companies.
- It also led to Loss of drinking water, fish stock depletion and erosion
- Uncontrolled sand mining led to Kerala floods.
- The indiscriminate mineral mining in six lease areas in the southern district of Tuticorin. These quarries are engaged in mining sand and major minerals such as ilmenite, rutile and garnet.
- It has been pointed out that the illegal sand mining has caused increasing sea erosion in the coastal districts. Fisher communities and organizations have been agitating against indiscriminate mining for long.
After banning mining of river sand and other minor minerals without the mandatory environment clearance, the National Green Tribunal (NGT) has banned beach sand mining from the sea coast of Tamil Nadu and Kerala is step in right direction. Only strict implementation of laws, introduction of state-level policies, and encouragement of artificial sand usage in construction, can stop the irreversible scarring of India’s rivers and beaches and protect its ecological health.
Topics Covered- Impact of Sand Mining