How sand mining is ruining our coastlines

Sand mining in Barbuda (OBSERVER media file photo)

The Department of Environment has indicated that since the government announced plans to suspend sand mining in Barbuda by December 2017, it has been receiving increased reports of people removing sand from beaches across Antigua.

Here is the thing — that is illegal.

Director of the Department of Environment Diann Black-Layne is reminding the general public that, “The removal of sand from beaches in Antigua is illegal and punishable by imprisonment of a term of up to one year, or a fine of $1,000, as well as seizure of the vehicle by the state.”

If you are building, the Department of Environment is making it clear that you must verify that the sand for your project is purchased from legal sources, which include Guyana and Montserrat that are here in our local market.

Ruleta Camacho-Thomas, the Deputy Chief Environment Officer within the Department of Environment spoke with OBSERVER media about how serious the problem is and how it affects the coastline.

What beaches have issues with sand mining?

Camacho-Thomas: People see it happening. Around Ffryes and Turner’s Point are two examples where people have seen people moving buckets of sand. That happens, too, but we don’t want to focus on that one. We want to focus on the big issue where people are having big trucks full of sand. I don’t know what they’re using it for, so I can’t say.

How can you tell when sand has been removed from the beach?

Camacho-Thomas: I know, for example, that there are boulders on Ffryes Beach and officers from the Ministry of Tourism who patrol the beaches have reported that the boulders are moved and people go with backhoes to remove the sand.

How have the Environment Division and police been involved in the matter?

Camacho-Thomas: What I can say is that we make reports to the police and we encourage everybody to make reports to the police. Call the police; it’s a criminal matter.

What can the public do to lessen the effects of sand mining?

Camacho-Thomas: We’re just reminding people that it’s not that we’re trying to keep you from getting sand. It has real environmental impact, an aesthetic impact and sand is basically our defence between the coastal impact of climate change and the land and it’s really important that we retain that buffer.