[Solved] 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 GS-3 Mains 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.

  • Coastal sand mining affects the coastal terrain and leads to coastal erosion.
  • Depletion of sand from coastal areas results in deepening of rivers and estuaries, and the enlargement of river mouths and coastal inlets.
  • 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.
  • Coastal Mining disturbs the wildlife living in the beach ecosystem.
  • Coastal Sand mining may create turbidity in the water. The turbidity can create a barrier that prevents sunlight from entering the water, which is harmful to corals 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.
  • Beaches, dunes, and sandbanks act as barriers to flooding. The sand mining removes such barriers. As a result, areas near the sea or river become more prone to flooding.
  • Resulting in coastal erosion, it 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 storm surges associated with tropical cyclones and tsunamis.
  • Coastal sand mining also has many negative impacts on the society. It affects the livelihood of the people, health, science beauty, climate and damage infrastructure.

 • 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.

Example:

 1. Kerala

 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.

 2. Tamilnadu

 • 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.

  • In Periyasamypuram in Tuticorin district of Tamil Nadu, fish catch has come down, the palm trees have dried up, ground water has turned brackish and the sea has entered the village due to coastal sand mining.
  • Seawater intrusion, inundation of coastal land and salinisation of groundwater have been observed along the coast of Kollam, Alappuzha, Pathanamthitta, Kottayam and Ernakulam due to sand mining.
  • Turtles such as the Olive Ridley sea turtle arrive at beaches to dig nests in the sand and lay their eggs. 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.
  • In Karnataka, rampant sand mining is leading to coastal erosion. The government is now forced to spend crores of rupees to form a barrier against coastal erosion.
  • Sand mining whether legal or illegal is causing serious repercussions on the coastal ecosystem. In a case, the National Green Tribunal imposed a fine of Rs 100 crore on the government of Andhra Pradesh for inaction to prevent illegal sand mining in the state.
  • Also strengthening standards and best practices to curb irresponsible extraction.
  • Investing in sand production and consumption measurement should be adopted at policy level.
  • It is necessary that the state governments must ensure mining volumes does not exceed the predetermined sustainable mining quantity proposed. Strict measures must be put in place to ensure that the mining volumes don’t exceed that.
  • Coastal sand mining poses one of the biggest threats to our environment:
  • It is very damaging to the beach fauna and flora and is ruinous to beach aesthetics.
  • Resulting in coastal erosion, it 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 storm surges associated with tropical cyclones and tsunamis.

 Way forward:

 Better spatial planning and reducing unnecessary construction is need of the hour.

 Using green infrastructure, adopting recycled and alternative substitute materials such as oil palm shell, bottom ash, strictly adhering to Coastal Regulation Zone (CRZ), etc. can help in reducing coastal sand mining.

Conclusion

 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

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