Coastal Sand Mining, whether Legal or Illegal and Its Impact along the Indian Coasts.

Updated December 20, 2022

To fulfill the requirement of sand used in Construction, Sand mining is being practiced in Coastal region or other areas where sand is found. It is becoming an environmental issue in India as the sand mafias extracting the sand in huge quantities without estimating its impact on the environment. Environmentalists in the states of Maharashtra, Madhya Pradesh, and Goa have raised public awareness of illegal sand mining. Some conservation and environmental NGOs like Aawaaz foundation also filed public interest litigation in the Bombay High Court seeking a ban on mining activities along the Konkan coast.

In October 2012 Hyderabad, at the Conference of Parties 11, a Convention on Biological Diversity, Aawaaz foundation, in partnership with the Bombay Natural History Society presented the issue of sand mining as a major international threat to coastal biodiversity. On 16th of March 2015, an Indian Administrative Service officer of the Karnataka state, Mr. D. K. Ravi was found dead at his residence in Bengaluru. He was well known for his tough crackdown on the aggressive illegal sand mining in the Kolar district. It is widely alleged that the death is not due to suicide but the conspiracy of the mafia involved in land grabbing and sand mining.

What is Coastal Sand mining?

The practice of extraction of sand, mainly through an open pit but sometimes mined from beaches and inland dunes or pour out from the ocean and river beds, is called sand mining. Sand is often used in manufacturing, for example as an abrasive or in concrete. It is also used on icy and snowy roads usually mixed with salt, to lower the melting point temperature, on the road surface. Sand can replace the eroded coastline. Some uses require higher purity than others, for example, sand used in concrete must be free of seashell fragments.

Sand mining is practiced not only to extract the sand but also to extract rutile, ilmenite, and zircon, which contain the industrially useful elements like titanium and zirconium. These minerals typically are found in ordinary sand deposits and are separated by water elutriation.

Although sand mining is necessary for fulfilling the sand requirement but in predetermined sustainable mining quantity because rampant sand mining has a devastating impact on the beach ecosystem. It causes coastal erosion and affects the local wildlife as various animals depend on sandy beaches for nesting clutches.  And aggressive sand mining has completely disturbed the wildlife leaving in a beach ecosystem. For example, mining has led to the near-extinction of gharials (a species of crocodile) in India. Disturbance of underwater and coastal sand causes turbidity in the water, which is harmful to organisms like coral that need sunlight. It can also destroy fisheries, financially harming their operators.

Impact of Sand Mining on Indian Coasts

Sand mining along the Indian coast has a devastating impact on the coastal ecosystem. Let’s see some of them.

Coastal Sand Mining Cause Coastal Erosion

The extraction of sand from the coast affects the coastal terrain and leads to coastal erosion. Ex: In Karnataka, aggressive sand mining is leading to coastal erosion as it destructs the natural barrier of the cost. The government is now forced to spend crores of rupees to form a barrier against coastal erosion.

Deepening of Rivers and Estuaries

Rampant sand mining causes the depletion of sand from coastal areas, which results in the deepening of rivers and estuaries, and the enlargement of river mouths and coastal inlets.

It Leads to Saline-Water Intrusion

Coastal sand Mining may also lead to saline-water intrusion from the nearby sea and the effect of mining is compounded by the effect of sea-level rise.

Disturbing the Beach Ecosystem

Coastal Mining not only disturbs the coastal terrain but also the life in the beach ecosystem. The destruction caused in the life of the turtles such as the Olive Ridley sea turtle is the best example to understand the impact of sand mining. To lay their eggs turtle arrive at beaches and dig nests in the sand. After laying their eggs, the turtles cover them with sand to protect the nests from predators. When the hatchlings emerge, they move across the beach and enter the sea. However, when sand mining occurs in turtle nesting habitats, it leads to the loss of nesting sites.

Coastal Sand Mining Create Turbidity

Due to coastal sand mining, dust particles get suspended in water that creates turbidity in the water. And a barrier is created through turbidity that prevents sunlight from entering the water, which is harmful to corals’ life that need sunlight. Fish may also die-off due to a lack of food and oxygen in the turbid waters. Thus, the entire aquatic system may fail due to sand mining.

Coastal Sand Mining Cause Flooding

Nature has its own beauty that it develops a weapon to tackle the disaster created by itself. For example, beaches, dunes, and sandbanks act as barriers to flooding. The sand mining destroys such barriers. As a result, areas near the sea or river become flood-prone.

So, it can be stated from the above statement that it is necessary to ensure by the state governments that mining volumes do not exceed the predetermined sustainable mining quantity proposed. And to prevent a disturbance in the beach ecosystem caused by rampant sand mining, strict measures must be put in place to ensure that the mining volumes don’t exceed that.

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