Sand theft

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Sign in County Mayo, Ireland, forbidding the removal of sand and stones from a beach.

Sand theft or unauthorised or illegal sand mining leads to a widely unknown global example of natural and non-renewable resource depletion problem comparable in extent to global water scarcity.[1][2][3] Beach theft is illegal removal of large quantities of sand from a beach leading to full or partial disappearance of the beach.

Sand and beach theft by country[edit]

Sand theft is a worldwide phenomenon.[4][5][6][7] Beach theft, the large-scale removal of sand to the point that entire stretches of a beach disappear, is considerably less common.

Two instances of beach thefts have been widely reported in the media: one in Hungary in 2007 and another in Jamaica in 2008. The beach that was stolen in Hungary was an artificially created one on the banks of a river. The other one is a genuine example of a beach theft.


Too much sand was taken from the Yangtze River to help build Shanghai, leading to the Chinese government banning sand mining there completely. However, smugglers continue to take sand and have begun to interfere with ships' GPS locations in order to mask their behaviour, causing ship wrecks and deaths.[8]


The pink sands of Elafonisi, created by tidal and wave-induced deposits of pigmented microorganisms living in a symbiotic relationship with native seaweed, were a frequent subject of souvenir-taking by tourists until the Greek government declared the area a nature reserve and prohibited the sands' removal; even today, color saturation levels remain at only around 10% of those in the early twentieth century.


An incident of beach theft occurred in Hungary in 2007.[9] In this case, multiple tonnes of sand were stolen by thieves from an artificial beach created by a resort in Mindszent alongside the banks of the Tisza river. Approximately 6,000 cubic meters of sand were shipped in and lounge chairs, playground rides, and beach huts were added. Owing to the harsh Hungarian winters, the owners of the resort covered the rides with tarpaulin and closed the resort for the season in September 2007. When one of the owners drove by, they noticed that the beach was gone.


In South India, the problem appears so pronounced that a particular Tamil term – manarkollai – has been coined.


A beach theft was discovered in Jamaica in July 2008.[10]

The beach at Coral Springs, in Jamaica's northern parish of Trelawny, was 400 metres of white sand. The bulk of the sand in the 0.5-hectare beach, of approximately 500 truckloads, was found missing in July 2008. The beach was to form part of a resort complex, but the theft of its most important feature has led to its developers putting their plans on hold. Illegal sand mining is a problem in Jamaica; the local tradition of people building their own homes has caused a huge demand for construction material.


The disappearance of the beach was considered so important that Jamaica's Prime Minister Bruce Golding took a personal interest in the theft and ordered a report into how such a large quantity of sand could have been stolen, transported and presumably sold. Police carried out forensic tests on beaches along the coast to see if any of it matched the stolen sand. A three-month police investigation failed to lead to anyone being charged. There were unconfirmed reports about collusion between the criminals and some police officers, but Jamaican police denied any such collusion.


Singapore is the world's largest importer of sand,[11][12] using it for land reclamation that has increased the country's size by 20% since independence.[11] Much of the imported sand has reportedly been mined illegally in Malaysia, Indonesia and Cambodia.[11][12]


Although sand theft does not seem to be a serious problem at first, it is nonetheless a serious problem as the removal of sand facilitates soil salinisation. For example, in Cape Verde, the theft of sand has caused the soil to salinify to such a degree, that a large number of orchards were permanently destroyed in the process.[citation needed]

See also[edit]


  1. ^ Vince Beiser (26 March 2015). "The Deadly Global War for Sand". wired.
  2. ^ Christian Hellwig (19 April 2015). "Illegal Sand Mining is a Thing and it's a Problem". Global Risk Insights.
  3. ^ Jakob Villioth (5 August 2014). "Building an economy on quicksand". ejolt. Sand has by now become the most widely consumed natural resource on the planet after fresh water
  4. ^ "Hanson Denies Stealing Sand", Los Angeles Times dated 28 October 2003 (Retrieved on 23 October 2008)
  5. ^ "Stealing sand from Sahara", Western Sahara Resource Watch [1] (Retrieved on 23 October 2000)
  6. ^ Shifting Sands report Archived 4 October 2013 at the Wayback Machine
  7. ^ "Sand thieves strike again", Voice of Malaysian Archived 29 April 2016 at the Wayback Machine dated 9 August 2008, Retrieved on 23 October 2008)
  8. ^ Harris, Mark. "Ghost ships, crop circles, and soft gold: A GPS mystery in Shanghai". MIT Technology Review. Retrieved 14 December 2019.
  9. ^ "Eltűnt homokos strandot keresnek a Tisza-parton" [2] (Retrieved on 12 November 2013)
  10. ^ "Jamaica puzzled by theft of beach", BBC News dated 18 October 2008 [3] (Retrieved on 21 October 2008)
  11. ^ a b c
  12. ^ a b