War for Sand: From the 1960s, Singapore has expanded by about 20%, thanks to a drainage system that has allowed the country to recover land from the sea and additional sands use. The need to expand the land area derives, for Singapore, from the population growth and the consequent need to find new areas available for the construction of residential buildings. But also, to expand the infrastructure and transport system. In recent years Singapore has entered into a dispute with neighboring countries, especially Indonesia and Malaysia, over allegations of illegal sand trafficking from the two countries’ beaches to Singapore.
Malaysia, along with Indonesia, Cambodia, and Vietnam, has placed a ban on the export of sand. Since this practice is considered harmful to the conservation of its natural heritage. According to multiple reports and local testimonies, thousands of tons of sand are taken by traffickers who, with small boats, reach the nearby Malaysian and Indonesian coasts, smuggling them into Singapore.
Sand is an extremely important non-renewable resource. Its use in the construction sector has made the war for sand a global phenomenon. In America, Asia, Africa, and the Middle East, unscrupulous contractors take sand from our beaches to build skyscrapers and luxury hotels. In Miami, the mayor confirmed a paradoxical situation. While millions of tourists choose Florida for its sandy beaches, the continued construction of resorts along the coast has meant that these beaches are disappearing today.
Even in Morocco, the inhabitants of Agadir say that traffickers exploiting low-cost local labor are taking tons of sand, causing damage to the entire ecosystem. The United Arab Emirates also uses sand skyscrapers building, although many Burj Khalifa apartments are empty today. A European construction company has asked the EU Commission to remove the ban on French waters in Marseille, towards the English Channel to extract sand from the seabed. The news sparked the local fishermen’s ire. They raised their voices for the EU to continue to protect the seabed in that area.
According to a research published in the journal Nature Climate Change, half of the world’s beaches could disappear by the end of this century. as a result of climate change-induced coastal erosion and rising seas. The scientists used satellite images to measure how coastlines have evolved over the past 30 years. They then used projections of sea-level rise to imagine how beaches and shores could change in the future. According to the U.N. Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change, average global sea levels could rise by 0.95 feet to 3.61 feet by the end of this century. But it’s not just climate change that puts our beaches at risk. Man is, once again, the most predominant risk factor.
Oceans usually move the grains of sand from ashore to another, but the ever more frequent construction of artificial barriers by States to protect their coasts blocks this process irremediably. The sand takes millions of years to reach the sill, through the path of the rivers. Streams carry with them during their journey the debris of rocks and stones, depositing on the coast. The dams continued global construction not only stops river water but also the sand ends on the walls of these artificial systems, without reaching the sea. All that is accelerating the disappearance of our beaches, already at risk from rising sea levels due to global warming.
Marine biologists have already warned of permanent damage that emptying sand from the seabed is an inhumane practice as it takes away millions of being. It also doesn’t give any results as it is not possible to stop the sand. The construction industry has begun to appreciate the use of glass sand in recent years. Glass sand is obtained by processing glass remains that are not recycled. This process has a cost, while the sand is free. The mafias have entered the sand trade, and until governments take measures to protect our shorelines, few will buy glass sand. The beaches are not ours. We can enjoy them today and then leave them to our children, from generation to generation. We must protect and respect them.