The Deadly Global War for Sand

Posted on Thu 02 April 2015 in Dispatches • 1 min read

Fascinating piece on both the legal and illegal sand trade, and the immense criminal industry that has grown up around the latter.

Today criminal gangs in an estimated 70 countries, from Jamaica to Nigeria, dredge up tons of the stuff every year to sell on the black market. Half the sand used for construction in Morocco is estimated to be mined illegally; whole stretches of beach there are disappearing. One of Israel’s most notorious gangsters, a man allegedly involved in a spate of recent car bombings, got his start stealing sand from public beaches. Dozens of Malaysian officials were charged in 2010 with accepting bribes and sexual favors in exchange for allowing illegally mined sand to be smuggled into Singapore.

But nowhere is the struggle for sand more ferocious than in India. Battles among and against “sand mafias” there have reportedly killed hundreds of people in recent years—including police officers, government officials, and ordinary people like Paleram Chauhan.

Vince Beiser, The Deadly Global War for Sand

This was an eye-opening article for me. The struggle for sand is an ongoing conflict that is virtually unknown here.