Beaches with miles of golden sand often conjure up images of sun, tranquility and vacation for most of us. People think of sand as a vast unbridled resource that would never get over even in their wildest dreams. However, the notion is as fragile as a sandcastle.
Sand Wars, an investigative documentary by Denis Delestrac sheds lights on the harsh realities of unregulated sand mining world over. The film shows how the unmindful activity is causing beaches to disappear and posing a threat to the delicate balance of nature.
Sand is used in the production of almost everything one comes in contact with on a daily basis – such as buildings, electronics, glass, airplanes, detergents, wine and even packaged food. The granules are used to build infrastructure in cities across the world, including Mumbai, which has been featured in the documentary.
"Mining or dredging of sand completely destroys marine life that dwell in shallow waters. It causes salt water to seep into groundwater tables," said Sumaira Abdulali of Awaaz Foundation who assisted the Mumbai chapter of the film.
The documentary points out the finite nature of sand which is formed over millions of years of shaping and travelling from the mountains all the way to the sea.
"Dams are a problem to this process where sand settles and is not allowed to reach the sea. America has about 80,000 dams of which 40,000 are lying unused. Most of the sand is behind these dams," said Delestrac.
According to geologists shown in the film, dredging sand from the sea causes shore sand to slip downward, leading to water eating up parts of the beach. Many small islands have disappeared because of this, while several beaches in USA, Australia, Maldives and some South Asian countries have shrunk over years.
"Anything free is considered to be of no value. That is what has led to the formation of sand mafias all over the world who are backed by powerful people who think they own the sand," said Delestrac, who stresses on finding alternatives or subsidizing recycled materials for construction as a solution.
The director is a former journalist and lawyer who traveled almost 26 countries over three years to make 'Sand Wars' which will release in India soon.