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Water Integrity in Action: Curbing Illegal Sand Mining in Sri Lanka

Campaign case study

Published in 2013 with support from the Sri Lanka Water Partnership and the Network for Women Water Professsionals


Sand mining is not only often carried out illegally, it can also have devastating consequences on the environment that can endanger the lives of local populations. Sand mining can lead to the degradation of river beds, erosion of banks, deterioration of water quality, reduction of ground-water availability, reduction of crops yields… In Sri Lanka, it has been convincingly proven that excessive sand mining aggravated the impact of the 2004 tsunami.

Still, as sand is a crucial resource for the construction sector, sand mining is booming and continues to take a serious toll on the health of rivers and coastlines worldwide. This publication documents the efforts made in Sri Lanka to counter illegal river sand mining. In 2005, a campaign was initiated against river sand mining by the Sri Lanka Water Partnership, the Network for Women Water Professionals (NetWwater) and partners. WIN and GWP provided additional support to their efforts from 2008.

The campaign is a widespread effort to engage with multiple stakeholders from civil society, government, regulatory authorities, law enforcement, religious authorities and the media to raise awareness about the impact of sand mining and encourage action and stronger regulation. This case highlights the role that law enforcers needs to play in protecting natural resources and the environment and how engaging with these stakeholders helped bring about concrete change in how illegal sand mining is addressed and limited.

Already, the impact of the campaign is positive. Illegal sand mining has been banned in two river basins – Deduru Oya and the Maha Oya. A strong network of partners continues to bring awareness to the issue, facilitate change and promote alternatives to the practice.

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