Growing demand for sand and gravel used for construction has lead to increased illegal sand mining which leaves river banks destroyed and rivers unable to retain water. This is according to Superintendent Moses Makgoeng of Thamaga Police Station, who also said the culprits are mostly re-offenders because the penalty for the crime is not stringent to be deterrence.
He said, “This should be everyone’s concern because excessive sand mining is a threat to everyone. It destroys river banks and nearby structures including the groundwater system and the uses that local people make of the river.” According to Makgoeng, their efforts to control the situation using night patrols and road blocks in the area have been unsuccessful. “We do not sleep because of these cases as most of them happen at night, but even with all these efforts illegal sand mining is getting even more rampant. We do not have enough manpower to catch them all and the penalty is not tight enough to make them think twice about committing the crime because it is usually a sum not acceding P1000 or a term of three months imprisonment or both. Our road blocks are not always effective because people warn them of our presence on the road so they take different routes,” he said.
He said since January this year, they have recorded 76 cases of illegal sand mining in Thamaga and surrounding areas, adding that most of the culprits get away with the crime as they never get caught. He said most of the illegal sand miners are Zimbabweans who sell the sand in Gaborone at low prices.
Somarela Tikologo Coordinator, Chenesani Tamocha said illegal sand miners present irreversible harm to the environment as uncontrolled and prolonged extraction of sand can lead to ecosystem deterioration. She said it also poses danger to people’s livestock in the area as illegal miners end up creating pitfalls within the river which may be deadly to livestock.
She said her organization is advocating for monitoring and control on the management of the resources, for a balance between development and ecological conservation as the various detrimental effects of the over exploitation of sand in the rivers can lead to a serious problem of siltation.
She said places like Metsimotlhabe, Mmopane, Kumakwane and Gabane are mostly affected,
“That people will always prefer a resource that they will get at lower price or obtain freely; I should think these miners are not concerned with the effects on the environment. Communities should be empowered through different committees such as Police clusters and green scorpions to closely monitor and control the harvest of river sand mining.”
Ministry of Minerals Energy and Water Resources Principal Public Relations Officer Potso Thari said crusher dust could be used as an alternative to river sand because it is environmentally sound and its impacts on the environment can be monitored and mitigated. She said another alternative would be manufacturing sand from crushing of sandstone and also from washing gravel.