Beijing: Villagers on a small island in China`s Guangdong province are worried about the threat to their lives and economic activity with the island having shrunk by nearly half in 10 years due to illegal sand collecting.
The villagers of Luodousha or Xinsha island said the sand had once been a natural barrier protecting them from the effects of typhoons. But now they spend huge amounts to raise artificial barriers or move their homes further away from the sea.
"Our defence is disappearing because of rampant sand collection," Liang Fengle, the party secretary of Sanshi village was quoted as saying by the Global Times. "People do not dare to build houses on the beach and have to move away to higher regions."
Meanwhile, the Nanfang Nongcunbao newspaper reported that the island had shrunk from 4.9 sq km to 2.7 sq km last year. Data from the oceanic and fisheries departments showed that about 66.7 hectares of land has disappeared, and the island`s average sea level fell by half to 0.5 metres.
Villagers have blamed the rampant sand collection for the shrinking. They said the owner of a sand dredging team can make a profit of 10,000 yuan (USD 1,470) in a month with a cubic metre of sand selling for up to 55 yuan (USD 8).
Sand collecting is illegal and those involved could be fined between 20,000 (USD 2,940) and 200,000 yuan ( USD 29,400).
Liang has alleged that some 40 sand dredging teams linked to gangsters are operating in the area. He said 40 ships, with a capacity between 300 and 1,500 cubic metres, are collecting sand every day.
One of the dredgers surnamed You confessed to the newspaper that they pay 700 yuan (USD 102) as "management fees" to the township government each month.
"The island is near the coast and nobody lives on it," You said. "We do it outside the legal limit."
Liang, meanwhile, said the villagers have already spent 500,000 yuan (USD 73,500) to build a 130-metre-long sea wall, but the village needs at least one million yuan more to build another 200-metre-long wall.
"We have to continue raising money. Otherwise, the whole village will disappear," he said.