Kuala Lumpur: Singapore has reportedly hired smugglers to steal entire beaches from neighbouring countries under the cover of night.
The island city-state`s size has increased by over 20 percent since the 1960s in what is being billed as the ‘Sand War’.
While the demand for sand for lucrative land reclamation and development projects is higher than ever in Singapore, recent bans on exporting sand introduced in Indonesia, Cambodia and Vietnam have cut off its supplies, paving the way for sand smuggling.
Singapore`s land developers are being slammed by environmental groups, who claim that several of the 83 border islands off the north coast of Indonesia could disappear into the sea in the next decade unless the smugglers are stopped.
"It is a war for natural resources that is being fought secretly. The situation has reached critical levels and the tropical islands of Nipah, the Karimun islands and many small islands off the coast of Riau are shrinking dramatically and on the brink of disappearing into the sea," The Telegraph quoted Nur Hidayati of Greenpeace Indonesia, as saying.
"The whole marine ecosystem in the areas where uncontrolled sand extraction is taking place is being destroyed – tropical fish species and barrier reefs are dying and the region`s marine biodiversity is under threat," he added.
The smaller islands also protect the larger islands from storms and tsunamis.
Corruption has been blamed for much of the sand smuggling.
Last month, 34 Malaysian civil servants were arrested for accepting bribes and sexual favours to facilitate sand smuggling to Singapore.
Malaysia`s former prime minister Dr Mahathir Mohamed claims that 700 lorries a day loaded with sand cross the border to Singapore.
“What these people are doing is selling a little bit of Malaysia, dig, keep digging Malaysia and give her to other people,” he said.
In Indonesia, an estimated 300 million cubic metres of sand is exported illegally every year.