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Sand Mining in Asilah, Morocco


Description:

During the last decade, Asilah's beaches have been destroyed. Their natural beauty has been devastated due to years of sand mining, as large parts of the beachfront have been almost stripped bare of their sand. Their condition threatens severe long-term environmental damage as well as undermining tourism, the main driving force behind this city's economy. Sand mining reached its  peak between 2012 and 2014, as Asilah saw a steep increase in the construction of apartments, homes, hotels and resort projects with most of the investment coming from real estate developers based in Fez and Tangier rather than the city itself. [1]

Since desert sand is not considered suitable for the production of cement, digging focused on coastal areas. Asilah is one of the hotspots for this exploitation. More than half of the sand is thereby extracted illegally since the Moroccan government included the theft of sand into article 517 of their criminal code in 2011 [7]. The penalty ranges from a fine of 500 Dirham per cubic meter of sand to five years in prison. But the law is unfortunately very rarely applied according to the residents. [3]

Asilah is not the only Moroccan city to have suffered sand exploitation. Similar operations have been documented along the country's Atlantic shoreline in nearby Larache, as well as in Kenitra and as far south as Dakhla, sometimes on an industrial scale so large that entire kilometres of coastline have been destroyed. The common culprit is a demand for cement for which sand is an essential ingredient. [1]

It is the economic and cultural toll of sand mining that has finally persuaded the city to address the issue. This summer, sand was imported to a handful of Asilah's beaches in an attempt to make them more accommodating and presentable for the tourist season. The measure, however, is only a temporary fix to a larger problem. But concerned residents express little confidence in the government's willingness to take the long-term health of the environment into account, despite Morocco's commitments to sustainable development policies. Doing so, they argue, conflicts with the state's appetite for economic growth and profit. [1]

Coastal Care, a foundation whose main mission is to raise awareness of the many unsustainable practices that are harming the world's beaches and coasts and to advocate for sensible, science-based policies and regulations that will protect and preserve coastlines and beaches around the world [4], created an online map and database showing the different cases of sand mining around the world including cases from Morocco. [5][6]

Basic Data

Name of conflict:Sand Mining in Asilah, Morocco
Country:Morocco
State or province:Tanger-Tetouan-Al Hoceima
(municipality or city/town)Asilah
Accuracy of locationHIGH (Local level)

Source of Conflict

Type of conflict: 1st level:Mineral Ores and Building Materials Extraction
Type of conflict: 2nd level :Urban development conflicts
Building materials extraction (quarries, sand, gravel)
Specific commodities:Sand, gravel

Project Details and Actors

Project details:

Several types of coastal sand mining were observed in Morocco:

- Bluff top mining: The sand being removed here, in spite of its location well above the local beach and dune, may still be a part of the active coastal sand system. That is, the sand here may still occasionally supply new sand to the beach in processes such as storm recovery.

- Back dune mining: Large reaches of Morocco’s massive coastal dune complex have been entirely removed by sand mining creating a landscape with deep pits and steep slopes hazardous to passersby.

- Beach Mining: Long, flat beach on coastal plain – The beach is flat and wide at low tide and relatively narrow at high tide. The rocky layers that once were buried in sand replace dunes. The dune ecosystem is completely gone. [2]

Type of populationSemi-urban
Start of the conflict:2012
Relevant government actors:Asilah Municipality
Environmental justice organizations (and other supporters) and their websites, if available:Coastal Care: http://coastalcare.org

Conflict and Mobilization

IntensityLATENT (no visible organising at the moment)
Reaction stageIn REACTION to the implementation (during construction or operation)
Groups mobilizing:International ejos
Local scientists/professionals
Forms of mobilization:Creation of alternative reports/knowledge
Development of alternative proposals
Mapping

Impacts of the project

Environmental ImpactsVisible: Floods (river, coastal, mudflow), Loss of landscape/aesthetic degradation, Soil erosion
Health ImpactsVisible: Occupational disease and accidents
Socio-economical ImpactsVisible: Loss of livelihood, Loss of landscape/sense of place

Outcome

Project StatusUnknown
Conflict outcome / response:Environmental improvements, rehabilitation/restoration of area
New legislation
Under negotiation
Project temporarily suspended
Development of alternatives:Future mining of the modern coastal sand body should be avoided. There are numerous alternative sources of sand available, most of which will be at least slightly more expensive than the presently used coastal sand.

If mining continues on some limited basis, reclamation (reshaping) of the impacted landscapes must be required. In some areas reclamation of existing, abandoned mining sites should be considered.

Future regulations and decisions concerning sand mining in Morocco should consider the need to provide future generations of Moroccans with high quality, healthy beaches. The long term economic potential of healthy, beautiful beaches is huge and is worthy of extensive efforts to preserve them. [2]
Do you consider this an environmental justice success? Was environmental justice served?:Not Sure
Briefly explain:It is the economic and cultural toll of sand mining that has finally persuaded the city to address the issue. This summer, sand was imported to a handful of Asilah’s beaches in an attempt to make them more accommodating and presentable for the tourist season. The measure, however, is only a temporary fix to a larger problem.

But concerned residents express little confidence in the government’s willingness to take the long-term health of the environment into account, despite Morocco’s recent commitments to sustainable development policies

Sources and Materials

Related laws and legislations - Juridical texts related to the conflict

[7] - Morocco's Penal Code, with Article 517 concerning sand theft
https://www.ilo.org/dyn/natlex/docs/SERIAL/69975/69182/F1186528577/MAR-69975.pdf

References to published books, academic articles, movies or published documentaries

[2] - MINING OF COASTAL SAND: A CRITICAL ENVIRONMENTAL AND ECONOMIC PROBLEM FOR MOROCCO
http://coastalcare.org/2009/03/mining-of-coastal-sand-a-critical-environmental-and-economic-problem-for-morocco/

Links to general newspaper articles, blogs or other websites

[4] - About Coastal Care
http://coastalcare.org/about/

[5] - Sand Mining World Map by Coastal Care
http://coastalcare.org/sections/inform/sand-mining/page/38/

[6] - Sand Mining Database by Coastal Care
http://coastalcare.org/sand-mining-database/

[1] - Why are beaches disappearing in Morocco? - MEE - September 2016
http://www.middleeasteye.net/in-depth/features/sand-exploitation-morocco-beaches-environment-construction-erosion-475164766

[3] - The new gold diggers

Asilah, Morocco, (October 2012
http://transformations-blog.com/the-new-gold-diggers/

Other documents

Workers mine sand from an Asilah beach in 2012 (Miriam Gutekunst / transformations-blog.com)
https://file.ejatlas.org/docs/Asilah-1.jpg

Surface rock has become more exposed as a consequence of sand mining (MEE/Matthew Greene)
https://file.ejatlas.org/docs/Asilah-4.jpg

Meta information

Contributor:Christophe Maroun - [email protected]
Last update01/02/2018

Images

 

Workers mine sand from an Asilah beach in 2012 (Miriam Gutekunst / transformations-blog.com)

 

Surface rock has become more exposed as a consequence of sand mining (MEE/Matthew Greene)