The Caribbean, known for its crystal blue waters, powdery sand beaches with colors ranging from coco to pink and all the shades in between, is a haven for holiday seekers looking for an exotic getaway for their holidays.
In recent years, the Caribbean has become more accessible from various locations around the world--more flights operating in and out of islands, which until recently had been virtually untouched.
The need for accommodations has skyrocketed. Islands that may have been overlooked before are now getting the much needed tourism dollars fed to their economy.
But you have to put people somewhere, right? So, what this has meant for islands in desperate need for tourism dollars, a demand for lodging.
When building a hotel, what is needed? Lumber, electrical, plumbing, roofing materials and plastering for walls, pools, and cement flooring. The addition of sand needed as an integral part to make cement materials, is what is creating the not so new business of sand stealing.
Literally, truckloads of sand from islands such as Grenada, Jamaica, the tiny isle of Nevis, and Anguilla have all felt the effects of this enterprise in the Caribbean.
Although illegal sand mining stared in the 1970's on various isles in the Caribbean, the amounts were small, with not much impact. Today those amounts have more than quadrupled. A report coming out of Jamaica, for example, states that thieves stole more than 100 truckloads from private beaches to build a mega-resort for tourists. That's just one resort.
It's all about locals making a profit, with sand selling around $350.00 a cubic yard, and hotels saving money without having to import the same materials at a higher cost basis.
This is nothing new for the States, either. I remember reading the New York Times many years ago, about a group of legal scholars and environmentalists, who spoke out to those who benefited from building projects. "Sand mining" was brought to light in the media, and eventually into the courtroom.
Developers were utilizing sand to line creek bottoms with concrete to prevent flooding, townships on the sea were building rock jetties to keep the harbours protected. This group initiated a theory they dubbed "sand rights"- if you starve a beach, take responsibility to prevent or undo whatever damage is created.
They took findings of British common law and legal principles that dated back to 6th century Rome. The findings stated that "beaches have a "right" to the sand that would naturally flow to them and that states have a right to make sure they get it, even if it means that some property owners have to pay to make it happen."
So, what is the big deal with using seemingly endless amounts of sand for construction in the Caribbean?
Environmentally speaking, it means locations around the islands are now subjected to potential flooding, tidal waves, ripping winds, rough seas, and loss of eco-sensitive plants and animals.
Caribbean officials have stepped up to try and rectify these problems, fully aware that a loss of their beaches means a potential loss of tourism who come to the islands to enjoy the sea and sand. They are putting laws into place with strict fines and jail time to help protect against individuals and companies involved in the thievery. In Grenada, fines and jail time are being upped and extended, as well as other islands using similar laws to step in to seize equipment and shut down projects that are operating illegally by using local sand.
Adventure Girl, Stefanie Michaels is an eco-travel and lifestyle expert and an advocate for the environment. Her site Adventuregirl.com offers tips for travelers on green locales around the globe, as well as granting monthly Adventure Girl Green Awards to hotels and resorts making good on their green initiatives.
You can reach Stefanie at www.adventuregirl.com