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The decision was only made public in July as the government was reportedly concerned about triggering a diplomatic row. However, sources told Reuters that the ban was never made public because of the potential diplomatic fallout.

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Singapore and Malaysia were part of British-ruled Malaya and became distinct countries in , but disputes over territory and shared resources have damaged relations. In May, a UN report warned that the level of sand extraction worldwide was substantially larger than the rate at which it could be replenished.

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T he report also warned that the problems caused by sand extraction stretched beyond the environment, with the tourism industry of the exporting country suffering due to smaller beaches. Sand extraction can also decrease the population of crabs, endangering those who make a living by collecting and selling the creatures. Produced for Milan's Dimore Gallery, seven pieces of furniture by the late artist Gabriella Crespi are installed them among piles of sand for an exhibition called Visioni.

Bioplastic buckets in the shape of mountains will be distributed across 25 UK beaches this summer as part of a participatory art project by artist Katie Paterson. A symposium taking place at Dutch Design Week later this month will discuss the rapid depletion of the world's sand reserves, which could leave supplies of the high-quality sand used in the glass industry exhausted within 20 years.

Time is running out for sand

To get the sand we need, we are stripping riverbeds, floodplains and beaches. In places where onshore sources have been exhausted, sand miners are turning to the seas. This often inflicts terrible costs on the environment. In India, river sand mining is disrupting ecosystems, killing countless fish and birds.

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In Indonesia, some two dozen small islands are believed to have disappeared since because of sand mining. In Vietnam, miners have torn up hundreds of acres of forest to get at the sandy soil underneath. Sand miners have damaged coral reefs in Kenya and undermined bridges in Liberia and Nigeria.

Environmentalists tie sand dredging in San Francisco Bay to the erosion of nearby beaches. People are getting hurt, too.

In India and Indonesia, activists and government officials confronting black-market sand mining gangs have been killed. Stronger regulations can prevent a lot of this damage, and do in most developed countries.

Follow the sand

Sand is tremendously heavy, which makes it expensive to transport. If you forbid sand mining in your backyard — as many American communities are trying to do — then it has to be trucked in from somewhere else.

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That drives up the price. Concrete is relatively cheap; if the cost of making a new building or road were to double, it could hit the economy hard.

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