In DepthEnvironmental Science

Asia's hunger for sand takes toll on ecology

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Science  02 Mar 2018:
Vol. 359, Issue 6379, pp. 964-965
DOI: 10.1126/science.359.6379.964

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Across Asia, rampant extraction of sand for construction is eroding coastlines and scouring waterways. Scientists are beginning to assess the environmental toll; already, poorly regulated and often illegal sand removal has been linked to declines in seagrasses in Indonesia and in charismatic species such as the Ganges River dolphin and terrapins in India and Malaysia. In eastern China's Poyang Lake, dredging boats are sucking up tens of millions of tons of sand a year, altering the hydrology of the country's largest freshwater lake, a way station for migratory birds. Conservation groups are urging governments to crack down. But the political clout of developers means it will be an uphill—and perilous—battle.

  • * Christina Larson is a journalist in Beijing.