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They warn of the impacts of regenerating beaches with sand from the Sahara


The irregular extraction of sand from Western Sahara to regenerate beaches or for construction can have harmful ecological effects both in the African deposit from which they are extracted and at their destination, several specialists have warned Efe. The depletion of sand as a resource has already been warned from other sectors.

Thus, the coordinator of natural resources of the Canarian Association of Friends of the Saharawi People (ACAPS), Anselmo Fariña, has warned that “there is a notion that sand is an unlimited resource and more so, if we talk about that of a desert like that of the Sahara”, but that is a mistaken impression since in reality “we must think of it as a non-renewable resource in the same way that water is.».

Nor is it inexhaustible, despite the fact that it may seem so, and in the case of the deposit in Western Sahara from which the sand that is later imported to the Canary Islands is extracted today, its capacity is “two million cubic meters”according to ACAPS.

This material it is used “mainly in the cement industry and also in the regeneration of beaches”, especially in those of the western islands that “originally were black sand but they opted for Saharan sand, which is blonde, to assimilate them to the more touristy ones such as Las Canteras in Gran Canaria,” Fariña points out.

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Thus, the Las Teresitas beach in Tenerife received a first deposition of 270,000 tons, followed by up to three subsequent replenishments in 1988, 1999 and 2014, according to data held by ACAPS, which denounces “a regular flow of sand traffic » by Moroccan companies from the Saharawi port of El Aaiún to different points in the Canary archipelago.

Potential danger of this activity

Aurora Torres, co-author of the report ‘Sand and Sustainability: 10 strategic recommendations to avoid a crisis’ published by the UN, points out in it the potential danger” of this activity since “it can trigger the possibility of introducing invasive alien species into the new ecosystem”.

In addition to this risk, the regeneration of a beach with foreign material “has a considerable impact”, added Oceana’s spokesman, Ricardo Aguilar, “because the new sand produces greater erosion in the new ecosystem, especially if it does not come from the sea, but from the continent», which in turn requires «scheduling new regenerations more frequently», added Ricardo Aguilar, spokesman for Oceana. Aguilar also endorses the threat that extraction poses to the deposit itself, since “deserts have their own ecological dynamics and, if we extract a lot of sand from them, we alter it.”

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Not only Canary Islands

The transport of African sand is not only to the Canary Islands, since these experts detected its transfer also to the Portuguese town of Machico, on the island of Madeira, and also to the Balearic island of Mallorca, although in this last case “the environmental authorities vetoed its use in the construction of a golf course, which caused it to finally be used in the construction sector.”

For the Western Sahara Resources Observatory, sand trafficking is clearly illegal based on rulings such as the one issued by the Court of Justice of the European Union in 2016 that “make it clear that Morocco cannot export Western Saharan products as its own.”

“We have repeatedly written to the Civil Guard to prevent the unloading of that sand or even to check the documentation of origin of the merchandise, and they have answered us that this order would have to come from the EU,” laments Cristina Martínez, spokesperson of the observatory.


Environment section contact: crisisclimatica@prensaiberica.es

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