Environmental Policy News

Disappearing Moroccan Beaches Mined for Sand

According to a recent article, popular beaches in Morocco are being stripped due to an ongoing need for sand in construction.

Writing for Middle East Eye, author Matthew Greene says that while the beaches in the northern Moroccan city of Asilah draw tourists and seasonal residents, “during the last decade, Asilah’s beaches have been ravaged. Their natural beauty has been devastated due to years of sand mining, whereby large stretches of beachfront have been almost stripped bare of their sand. Their condition threatens severe long-term environmental damage as well as undermining the industry that is the main driving force behind this city’s economy.”

The sand mining peaked between 2012 and 2014 as a cheaper alternative to purchasing cement. That’s when, Greene says, builders opted “to exploit the sand of nearby beaches with which to mix their own concrete.”

“They just assumed that the sand would naturally replace itself,” Kamal Arrifi, a certified mason who remembers the period well, told Greene. After a few years of steady mining, it became clear that nature was struggling to keep pace with the unnatural removal.

Greene adds, “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.”

One observer told Greene that the problem is a symptom of a system where paying fines is cheaper than filling the proper paperwork. The problem has abated somewhat with construction projects having slowed in the last two years, but the sand already removed, “has also led the shoreline to move further inland, allowing incoming tides to push past what was previously their natural threshold.”

According to Abdou Khouakhi, a Moroccan oceanographer, surface loss and shore retreat are key warning signs of potential environmental and structural danger. “This may cause erosion and enable waves and storm surges to threaten inland and low-lying areas.”

To read the entire article, click here.

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