Looting and illegal extraction: This sand which slips under our fingers! – Part 1 –

Modernity requires, the Morocco of becoming is being built. And when it is in the literal sense of the verb, we have to deduce that it is with concrete slabs that this is achieved. For the building alone, two-thirds of the constructions on the planet are made of concrete, and two-thirds of the latter is made of sand. That is to say that sand consumption is growing exponentially around the world, finally when there is or remains.

If for us in Morocco nature has generously provided us with this material, with the intensive exploitation done in due course, we are inevitably contributing to its shortage. Legal or illegal maritime extractions threaten our coasts as well as our ecosystems, while sand mafias thrive on disproportionate scales, leading to the prospect of irreversible environmental disaster.

The Moroccan population is no longer that of the 1960s, which did not exceed ten million individuals, it has almost tripled, or even quadrupled in 60 years. So, in all proportion and in comparison, we can say that this also applies to the use of sand, the second most used resource after water in Morocco.

Become by the force of space and time by a lucrative material, we tear ourselves away to such an extent that it risks well to slip through our fingers. No longer, today it is only exploited by going to look for it on the beaches but by dredging in the oceans and seas. A glaring example of this legal but well and truly disguised exploitation is the scandalous affair of the authorization that a high official at the head of the Department of Energy and Mines, Aziz Rebbah not to name him, granted in the midst of a health crisis to the company Drapor in August 2020.

A decision unpopular in many respects and which moreover went against the conclusions of a scientific study carried out by the sea sand extraction department under its jurisdiction. But there is only the tree which hides the forest.

Aziz Rebbah was inspired by what is done internationally where the illegal extraction of sand in seas and oceans has become a very large-scale activity. But beyond the lucrative aspect, it poses many problems. The main one is that of the erosion of the coasts. Current studies estimate that between 75 and 90% of the world’s beaches are receding – in Indonesia 25 islands have already disappeared under the effect of massive sand extraction. Not to mention the damage caused to the underwater flora and fauna, the suction of the dunes underwater.

Morocco, it is a fact, is a country with tourist vocation. The construction of hotel complexes near the coasts is going well. To ensure a sufficient supply of sand, construction companies use that of the mafias who at low figures do their shopping net of taxes almost half on Moroccan beaches illegally and sometimes even in the care of corrupt authorities. It is said that in Morocco it is nearly a dozen million cubic meters per year of sand, which is extracted illegally in coastal areas. As a result, our coastal landscapes are transformed into rocky landscapes and then become lunar, which at the same time reduces the attractive side of our coasts, however popular with tourists….

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As such, we will take the example of eastern Morocco, which is home to the seaside resort of Saïdia near Oujda, also a victim of the sand mafias. For this we let Mohamed Benata, Agricultural Engineer, Dr in Geography, President of ESCO and founding member of ECOLOMAN, but above all a fervent defender of the environment, to describe the impacts of these phenomena of illegal sand exploitation. of the coast in Eastern Morocco.

In eastern Morocco we have experienced the largest operation of destruction of the dune ridge and illegal harvesting and diversion of sand from the beach with the support and official blessing of administrations and authorities supposed to protect our environment and our natural heritage. He tells us.

In fact, the impact study specific to the coastal zone recommended in addition to the preservation of the dunes, the elevation of the coast of the sea promenade so that no sand stripping is carried out in the area. area and that the dunes are not affected by any displacement, the exact opposite has taken place. ” The border dunes have been stripped and the sand transported elsewhere. The sandy dunes have been stripped and replaced by hotels, or waterfront apartments and a ledge that has come too close to the coastline from the shore of the SIBE de la Moulouya and throughout the seaside resort of Saidia », Denounces Mohamed Benata.

He explains that the border dune 3 meters high and 30 meters wide was completely stripped along the coast on a seafront of more than 6 km, against all recommendations of the design office that carried out the study. impact specific to the coastal zone. ” Beach sand, he laments, has been relocated and transported in company trucks for its private use in the construction of buildings or backfilling in order to fill wet areas or raise the coast of buildings “.

In addition, confided to us this expert in geography, “As part of the development of the cornice at the level of the city of Saïdia, the Department of Equipment had launched a call for tenders to strip the border dune at the level of the city of Saïdia. The equivalent of 15,000 m3 of sand had to be transported to a location determined by the Administration without being marketed or used in the building“.

The operation was justified, according to the statements of the Regional Director of Equipment, by a question of aesthetics of the beach as part of the development works of the Saïdia cornice which were entrusted to the company BIOUI.

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Following our observations and the evidence that we have accumulated, we can confirm that the sand collected from Saïdia beach was used both in the field of building or construction of social housing in the city of Saïdia and in the constructions in the seaside resort. A large amount of sand on the beach well over 15,000 m3 declared by the DRE was used either to raise the level of buildings or to backfill wetlands and areas flooded or sold outside the perimeter », Says Benata.

And the snowball effect to continue according to our interlocutor, ” Following this development and against all the prerogatives of Coastal Law 81-12, authorizations were granted by the Moroccan authorities for the construction of numerous cafeterias and car parks which have concreted the sand dunes. », He emphasizes. Following these developments and the illegal exploitation of the sands of the bordering dunes and the constructions on the dunes, continues our interlocutor, “ We observed that several sections of Saïdia beach are experiencing strong erosion with receding rates sometimes of up to 10 m / year.

“This erosion of the beach is accentuated by the establishment of several dams on the Moulouya which retain the sediments to feed the beach once again in progress », Indicates the activist.

He also wishes to address another subject, that of the sediment supply of the Moulouya. ” The beach was strongly influenced by the construction of the dams. The trapping of sediments by dams significantly influences the dynamics of the Oued and the sedimentary dynamics of the beach. In return for this sediment trapping, the Moulouya delta no longer progresses towards the sea and it suffered a significant decline from 1958 until its complete disappearance in 1980. », He explains.

The two dams, according to Benata, are experiencing a very worrying siltation for decision-makers because sooner or later it will have repercussions on the irrigated perimeters of the lower Moulouya and on the drinking water supply of towns in the Oriental. The total filling of these dams is planned for the end of 2030.

And to denounce the looting or illegal extraction of sand in this region: ” In addition to the trapping of sediments at the level of the dams and the irrational exploitation authorized by the State services to develop and divert the sand from the border dunes, an activity is carried out by the sand mafia as well on the banks of the river. Moulouya than on the dunes bordering the coast on both shores “.

Despite numerous complaints from residents and NGOs to local authorities to apply the law and prohibit illegal sand extraction from the banks of the Moulouya, it has been observed that sand extraction and the degradation of the tamarisk continues.

Benata specifies in this regard that “these activities take place mainly at night to avoid reprisals with residents and the authorities”.

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