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Purchasing «Sahara sand» to maintain a Canary Islands' beach stirs controversy

The Canary Islands archipelago has been slammed for using Sahara sand to maintain one of its beaches. The works were also criticized for violating the procedure set by the islands' authorities.

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The Playa de Mogan, a beach located in the southern tip of the Gran Canary Island, had undergone maintenance works earlier in December. However, the operations launched December 2 by the municipality of Mogan were slammed for using «Sahara sand» and for violating some regulating procedures.

On Tuesday, Spanish newspaper El Diario reported that the Canarian municipality had closed the beach for the planned maintenance works before designating a company to take care of them. It revealed that the project violated the law because a proper tender «was not launched».

The same source added that the initial agreement signed by the Island’s council and its tourism office did not mention the works. «Following local elections, held on May 26, the town hall of Mogan said that the works must be a priority for the municipality», the same source recalled.

Sand imported from the Sahara

This comes as the purchasing of Sahara sand to maintain the beach was at the heart of a controversy in the Canary Islands and in the Tindouf camps. El Diario reports that New Canaries (NC), a centre-left Canarian nationalist political party, slammed the works in Mogan. 

The party’s advisor Carmelo Ramírez described these works as a «violation of the rights of the population and regulations».

For its part, the movement of support for the Polisario in the Canary Islands «regretted that the archipelago has once again become an accomplice in the theft of resources that Morocco exports from the Saharawi territory».

Earlier in December, pro-Polisario NGO Western Sahara Resource Watch (WSRW) criticized the municipality of Mogan for purchasing sand from Western Sahara.

«The maintenance work on the Mogán beach began on December 2, 2019. (…) Controversially, the municipality had ordered tons of sand from Western Sahara to renovate the tourist spot», the NGO wrote.

WRSW, which claims having documented the arrival of the first trucks with sand transported to Mogan from the Arinaga harbor, argues «the purchase contributes to finance the illegal Moroccan occupation of the former Spanish colony».

The same association alleges that the «sand masses had been transported on board the vessel Dura Bulk».

For the record, the pro-Polisario NGO's reports come as similar ones on a phosphate cargo ship in New Zealand emerged in November. Collaborating with a trade union in the country, the two parties threatened to besiege the ship, which was carrying phosphate rocks from OCP’s subsidiary in Boucraa, a town in the Sahara.

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