By Ismaila Sonko
August 25, 2021
A Gambian environmentalist has called for a ban on beach sand mining in the country, saying the activity may ultimately affect beach properties. Siaka Daffeh made the call during a recent interview with The Progress Newspaper.
He warned that ongoing beach sand mining at ‘Saro’ along the Banjul Highway can cause big coastal erosion if it is not properly controlled by the responsible authorities. He said that natural beach sand deposits are important for recreation by residents and tourists and serve as a barrier against storm waves, thus protecting coastal residences and commercial investments.
The environmentalist listed the problems caused by beach sand mining, which include destruction of natural beaches and the ecosystems they protect (e.g. dunes, wetlands), habitat loss for globally important species (e.g. turtles, shorebirds), destruction of near shore marine ecosystems, increased shoreline erosion rates, and reduced protection from storms.
He continued: “In severe cases, saline ponds are formed in unsightly pits left by mining operations, shoreline trees and other stabilising vegetation are lost to the sea, and entire beach habitats are eliminated.
“Moreover, the use of beach sand in construction provides inferior results, including corrosion of steel support elements and electrical components; therefore, the benefits of using high quality, legal aggregate include better construction with less impact on fragile coastal resources.”
Daffeh lamented that beach sand removal has reached a crisis point in many areas of the country’s coastline, which are replete with examples of sand mining operations that have reduced previously sandy beaches to rocky shorelines or foul-smelling saline pits and eliminated once active nesting assemblages of sea turtles.
He further warned that loss of sandy beaches not only reduces the reproductive success of sea turtles and endangers beachfront property, but has serious economic implications for vital sectors such as fishing and coast-based tourism.
“Beach sand mining should be prohibited by law, because such mining removes sand from the coastal system as a whole and may ultimately affect beach properties. Lobbying for holistic regulations and enforcement is important. Specific sites, preferably inland deposits, should be designated for sand mining – extraction fees should be implemented and permit conditions enforced,” he added.