[Answered]Coastal sand mining, whether legal or illegal, poses one of the biggest threats to our environment. Analyse the impact of sand mining along the Indian coasts, citing specific examples.

Demand of the question

Introduction. Contextual Introduction.

Body. Discuss Coastal Sand Mining and impact on environment. Mention Coastal sand mining example around Indian Coasts.

Conclusion. Way forward.

Sand Mining is an activity referring to the process of the actual removal of sand from the foreshore including rivers, streams and lakes. Sand is mined from beaches and dredged from ocean beds and ­­river beds. Sand consumption globally has been increasing and according to a report by the United Nations Environment Programme (UNEP), India is in the list of critical hotspots for coastal sand mining.

 Coastal Sand Mining and impact on environment:

  1. Coastal sand mining affects the coastal terrain and leads to coastal erosion.
  2. Depletion of sand from coastal areas results in deepening of rivers and estuaries, and the enlargement of river mouths and coastal inlets.
  3. 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.
  4. Coastal Mining disturbs the wildlife living in the beach ecosystem.
  5. 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.
  6. 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.
  7. Resulting in coastal erosion, it frequently causes environmental damage to other coastal ecosystems associated with the beach such as wetlands.
  8. Another major impact of beach sand mining is the loss of protection from storm surges associated with tropical cyclones and tsunamis.
  9. 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.

Coastal sand mining and Indian Coasts:

  1. 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.
  2. 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.
  3. 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.
  4. 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.
  5. 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.

 Way forward:

  1. Better spatial planning and reducing unnecessary construction is need of the hour.
  2. 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.
  3. Also strengthening standards and best practices to curb irresponsible extraction.
  4. 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.

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