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Controversial Move : Extracting 1 Million Tons of Sand to Save Shores



Controversial Move : Extracting 1 Million Tons of Sand to Save Shores
Image source: l'Express

The 2024-2025 budget has announced plans to allow sand extraction to rebuild eroded beaches, but many are concerned about the move. Renganaden Padayachy, the Minister of Environment, has stated that the government will invest in coastal restoration works on approximately 5 kilometers of coastline, including areas such as Bain-Boeuf, Mon-Choisy, Le Morne, Grand-Sable, La Prairie, Grande-Rivière-Sud-Est, and Baie-du-Cap.

However, Vassen Kauppaymuthoo, an oceanographer and environmental engineer, has criticized the move as a fundamental mistake that will cause more problems for erosion and marine biodiversity.

He argued that sand extraction was banned in 2001 by the then-Environment Minister Rajesh Bhagwan based on scientific data from the Awacs Report of 1993.

Kauppaymuthoo explained that extracting sand increases water turbidity by releasing fine particles that affect corals and disrupt underwater light.

“These marine herbaceous plants serve to stabilize the sea floor. If they are affected, it will increase the risk of erosion and have an impact on the marine ecosystem,” he said.

Moreover, he pointed out that comparing Mauritius to the Maldives is a grave mistake.

While the Maldives has been using land reclamation projects to create new landmasses, Maurice’s coastline has been established for 4,000 to 5,000 years.

“At the Maldives, there are moving sandbars where marine life is less compared to Mauritius,” he noted.

Another concern is that extracted sand will return to the sea with tidal movements and waves.

“What will the government do then? Will they continue pumping sand? It’s like playing a game of hide-and-seek,” Kauppaymuthoo asked.

He suggested that instead of extracting sand, the government should focus on climate change vulnerability assessments and adaptation measures.

“We should use nature itself to restore beaches. For instance, reviving coral reefs and structures along our coastlines – receding hotels from the beachfronts and preventing sewage from entering the lagoon,” he said.

Adi Teelock, a member of Platform Moris Lanvironnman, shared similar concerns. Several reports demonstrate that sand extraction favors erosion and degrades marine fauna and flora health.

“Even at the Maldives, which the government cited as an example for its decision-making process, there were warnings and contestation over a project report in 2022 highlighting the long-term irreparable effects of this strategy,” she pointed out.

Teelock also questioned whether extracting sand is the government’s new strategy for addressing beach erosion and whether they have conducted studies on long-term erosion assessments.

“Is this a new strategy for addressing our coastal erosion problem? Does the government know why restored beaches with ‘protection against erosion’ measures have had to be redone more than once?” she asked.

Lastly, she criticized the timing of the announcement and its potential link to an open tender for an environmental impact assessment study to prepare guidelines for urgent beach rehabilitation works near hotels.

“Did the government already know that these guidelines would recommend sand extraction? Are we tempted to ask?” she wondered.

Teelock added that it is essential to prioritize environmental concerns over short-term gains and encouraged hoteliers to accept that extracting sand poses too many risks.

“They should have listened to expert advice telling them to recede their structures as climate change threatens beaches.

By ignoring these warnings, they have put their beaches in peril and now want to shift responsibility onto marine biodiversity and public health,” she concluded.

Sand extraction may not be a quick fix for beach erosion, many experts are sounding alarm bells about its potential long-term consequences for Mauritian coastlines and marine ecosystems.

Source: l’Express

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