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Beneath an apartment block that looms over Monica beach in the western coastal city of Mohammedia, a sole sand dune has escaped the clutches of Morocco's insatiable construction contractors.
Here, like elsewhere across the North African tourist magnet, sand has been stolen to help feed an industry that is growing at full tilt.
Report - Month - UN - Environment - Programme
A report last month by the UN Environment Programme (UNEP) on the global over-exploitation of this resource accuses "sand mafias" of destroying Morocco's beaches and over-urbanising its coastline.
"The dunes have disappeared along the entire city's coastline," lamented environmental activist Jawad, referring to Mohammedia, on the Atlantic between Rabat and Casablanca.
Activist - Anpel - NGO - Protection
The 33-year-old environmental activist leads Anpel, a local NGO dedicated to coastal protection.
"At this rate, we'll soon only have rocks" left, chipped in Adnane, a member of the same group.
Sand - Year - Morocco - Construction - Metres
More than half the sand consumed each year by Morocco's construction industry—some 10 million cubic metres (350 million cubic feet)—is extracted illegally, according to UNEP.
"The looters come in the middle of the night, mainly in the low season," said a local resident in front of his grand home on the Monica seafront.
Area - People - Case - Nothing - Forty-something
"But they do it less often now because the area is full of people. In any case, there is nothing more to take," added the affable forty-something.
Sand accounts for four fifths of the makeup of concrete and—after water—is the world's second most consumed resource.
Beaches - Rivers - Planet - UNEP
Beaches and rivers are heavily exploited across the planet, legally and illegally, according to UNEP.
Morocco - Sand - Beaches - Hotels - Roads
In Morocco, "sand is often removed from beaches to build hotels, roads and other tourism-related infrastructure", according to UNEP.
Beaches are therefore shrinking, resulting in coastal erosion.
Construction - Destruction - Attraction - Visitors—beaches - Report
"Continued construction is likely to lead to... destruction of the main natural attraction for visitors—beaches themselves," the report warned.
Theft of sand from beaches or coastal dunes in Morocco is punishable by five years in prison.
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