Tourists who stole 40kg of sand from Italian beach facing up to six years in prison

Chia beach in Sardinia
Chia beach in Sardinia Photo credit: Getty

Two French tourists could face up to six years in jail for allegedly stealing 40kg of sand from a beach in Sardinia.

The pair were snapped by border police carrying 14 bottles of sand pilfered from Chia beach in the south of the island.

Although the two tourists told police they didn't realise they had done anything wrong, they were charged with theft under aggravated circumstance, reports CBS.

They face between one and six years behind bars.

The duo says they simply wanted a souvenir of their time on the Italian island, but sand theft is a growing concern for Sardinia, reports BBC.

There are signs warning not to take the sand, and patrols in place to try and stop light-fingered visitors bottling the sand and selling it online. 

"There are two threats," environmental scientist Pierluigi Cocco told BBC.

"One is due to erosion, which is partly natural and partly induced by the increasing sea level due to climate change. The second is due to sand stealing by tourists." 

Although not everyone is stealing sand, if enough people continue to sneak it out, Cocco says it will contribute 'significantly" to the reduction of the beaches.

Sand thieves can also face penalties of NZ$5,102 but these are difficult to enforce, as most of the culprits are tourists.

Sand theft has become a "black market" in recent years according to Spanish ecologist Aurora Torres.

It's a necessary component in creating concrete, with beach sand more sought after than desert sand due to its angular grain binding well in concrete.

As cities continue to grow, the sand trade is rising and outstripping demand, leading to people stealing it from beaches and selling it.

"Extraction has grown strongly over the past four decades and has accelerated since 2000," Torres told The Guardian in 2018.




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