The removal of white sand by ten-wheeler trucks from the coast of some villages in Falealili has alarmed residents, who have described it as an “environmental scandal.”
A worried resident, who spoke to the Samoa Observer on the condition of anonymity, says the practice in the area has been going on for a long time now.
It involves trucks carting away sand from Tafatafa, Lotofaga and nearby areas.
“I’m extremely concerned about the impact on the environment,” he said.
“It’s been going for years and we are talking about countless truckloads moving sand from the district. Consequently we see a lot of changes on the beaches."
“We notice huge erosion problems, changes of currents, palm trees being uprooted and falling into the sea.”
According to the resident, some of the trucks belong to a construction company in Apia.
Contacted for a comment, an official of the company confirmed that although they are involved with mining sand but only at Malaemalu in Falealili.
This, he said, is done in accordance to a permit they have obtained from the Ministry of Natural Resources and Environment (M.N.R.E).
“This deal is done with the village mayors,” he said. “If those people who are complaining need evidence, then we can give them the paper work."
“We have paperwork from the M.N.R.E. It’s not like we just started taking the sand out of the blue."
“We have been given a permit already to take the sand from the road of Malaemalu. We are connected to the village mayor.”
The Chief Executive Officer of M.N.R.E, Suluimalo Amataga Penaia, was not available to discuss the concerns.
He was on his way to a meeting overseas but he gave the Samoa Observer permission to contact one of the Ministry’s A.C.E.Os. Repeated attempts to contact the A.C.E.Os for a comment were not successful.
But the worried resident questioned those tasked with protecting the environment saying they should stop the practice before it’s too late.
“They are moving on average four fourteen tone trucks full of white sand a day,” he said. “Where the sand is going, we are not sure and that’s not the issue. My concern is the environment and I would like to see this stopped.
“We would like to see what M.N.R.E has to say. What about environmental protection societies like S.P.R.E.P? What do they have to say about the impact of this practice on our coastal areas?"
“The issue is that it’s declared legally that the boundary of any land on the ocean front is the highest high tide mark and anything below that you are not allowed to touch. But at the moment, that’s where they are getting the sand from."
“I have lived in Poutasi for a year and a half and I have seen trucks transporting sand throughout that whole time. Another person from the area says it’s been going on for at least three years now.
“I don’t think any calculator has enough digits to calculate how many tonnes of sand have been moved.”
The resident said this is an “environmental scandal.”
“How has it been going for so long with so many eyes watching?” he asked.
“Police stations watching, seeing the going by every day not knowing who it belongs to. They are all wondering where the sand comes from but no one is doing anything about it.”
The resident said some of the effects of sand mining are beginning to show.
He said that when visiting a friend’s property at Tafatafa after a long while he noticed that ten meters of land has been lost due to erosion.
“Whatever you take away from the ocean, the ocean will come back and claim it,” he expressed.
Aside from erosion, there are other effects of sand mining, which the resident feel should be taken seriously.
“There will be a change in currents due to this and with that there won’t be any more corals which will lead to a declining number in fish,” he said.
“This is having a massive impact on the whole environment especially the foreshore. Like I said after so many years of this practice, someone has to do something about it.”
The resident said that the government needs to come up with a solution, to help the companies involved and the environment.
“We need to come up with a solution and the solution is pretty simple,” he said.
“Beaches being government land can be declared as being studied where people can go and load up their trucks at a certain fee."
“The people must have a good enough reason though to take from those designated areas. Building a manmade island like Taumeasina won’t be a good enough excuse."
“It should be a valid reason so it can limit the mining of sand. One of the main reasons tourists come here is the beaches so we need to protect it."
“We can go on and on about the consequences but the main issue remains that tonnes and tonnes of sand are being mined every day."
“This is not a good practice and we should take the example from places around the world who have stopped it after realizing too late how their environment is being destroyed. It’s not worth it. The long term effects far outweigh the short termed benefits.”