Effects of sand mining on coastal biodiversity
Date and Time
9 October 2012 18:15 - 19:45
Eleventh meeting of the Conference of the Parties to the Convention on Biological Diversity (COP 11)
The event includes presentations from Awaaz Foundation, Bombay Natural History Society and various organizations on the effects of sand mining on biodiversity in various parts of the world. Sand is a necessary component to fuel the construction boom and rapid pace of urbanization in many parts of the world including India and Singapore. Rapid growth necessarily requires rapid construction of industrial, commercial and residential spaces. Sand mining was seen as an alternate livelihood to traditional fishing livelihoods which collapsed near Mumbai in the 1980s when the ‘traditional’ practice of sand dredging by diving to the bottom of the creek began. At the time, sand was easily available at a depth of 6-8 feet. With continuous extraction, the depth has now increased to 20-40 feet and in some areas, diving is no longer feasible but a skilled operation involving coordinated manual pulling of a bucket is used. Typically, 2 brass of sand can be excavated by one boat every day. Due to the exhausting manual labour involved weather conditions etc. each boat can operate a few hours daily for about half the year. In the last 5-6 years, technological advances have made possible the use of the more efficient suction pumps. A suction pump can extract 100 brass of sand per day and can operate every day of the year for 24 hours. Sand mining adversely impacts the environment, whatever the manner of extraction. Sand forms the bed of a river or creek and holds it within it’s natural course. It forms the medium in which mangroves grow, providing fish, aquatic, amphibious and terrestrial small animals their breeding grounds, and home for waterbirds. By holding the creek in it’s course sand protects lands and fields from intrusion of salt water during tidal rises and falls, protecting valuable property from degradation and erosion. Sea level rise and loss of valuable property may have major consequences to a coastal city and may ultimately even risk the very existence of land on which construction is being rapidly carried out and for which the sand is being extracted. Sand stocks, like any other natural reserve are not inexhaustible and, given that a village was apparently denuded in just 2 years with the advent of mechanization, the day when sand stocks are completely exhausted is not far off. This will have unforeseen consequences, to traditional fishermen- turned-sand miners, to the construction industry and to the pace of urbanization itself. Partnering organizations are Awaaz Foundation and Bombay Natural History Society, and presentations include sand mining issues in India, other Asian countries, Africa, Australia, USA and Caribbean countries, to raise awareness and bring about policy changes for limiting damage to biodiversity caused by sand mining.