Proposal 1
Proposal 2 - SandX

We are Alice, Gerry, Angelica, Natacha, Caleb, Adrian, Rebecca and Daniela and together we are team SandX - looking for an innovative way to help the sand crisis to be known.

Our aim is to collect data on the extraction of sand by creating an interactive map, using things like satellite images to videos, pictures and (news) stories. Join us on our journey to reach this ambitious goal through reading our continuously updated project journal here on SDGinProgress.

If you are a company interested in our project, please proceed reading Proposal 2 - SandX below. 



sandxmap@gmail.com                                                                          sandx_org on Instagram

Presentation video


Thursday, November 1 2018

Our first few project discussions thought of crowdsourcing as a cool, innovative way to get data close to the sand mining spots. We thought that involving locals and people tools could not only provide data, but also provide a humanizing glimpse into the adverse effects of sand mining. 

We sought experts since our group had no experience in crowdsourcing, luckily enough a couple worked just a few floors above our space, and agreed to meet and chat with us about it. 

Jose and Adhuhama, creators of crowd4ems.com and other crowdsourcing projects, gave us feedback on our ideas. They gave us a bunch of tools and spoke frankly about the practical value of crowdsourcing (the summary of which is above).

We walked away from that meeting with a lot to consider, as how crowdsourcing is embedded in the politics of the situation, how social media and other websites can shed light on the reality of the situation, but also how AI could be a useful tool to quickly and automatically analyze satellite images of hotspots.

Thursday, November 1 2018

While the first half was getting valuable knowledge on Crowd-sourcing, the second half of the group presented how our project was going to the class. We prepared an amazing video to present our group as "SANDX - Finding the X for Sand", a project dedicated to filling the data gap in sand extraction, how the infrastructure boom is fueling an insatiable hunger for sand, and how we need to make the impacts of said hunger visible to experts. The presentation ended with a final explanation of our project's logic,  goals and methods. 

And thanks to Caleb's ingenuity, our group finally decided on a name. SandX!

The 'x' in SANDX stands for the perennial algebraic "what is x?". The variable expresses how little we all know about the sand crisis and our ultimate vision to 'solve for x' when it comes to sand crisis data.)






Thursday, November 1 2018

What we are learning is that projects go through many iterations, and with every iteration our project comes a bit more into focus. A big part of iteration is pitching. Everyday workshop day we pitch our project at least two times to our peers, supervisors and people from outside. Their valuable insight always flows back into our next project discussions. 

Friday, November 2 2018

Natascha found a local construction company willing to invite us to tour their place. This will be a perfect time to ask questions and learn more about how construction companies see sand extraction.

It will also be a good time to discuss our project with the company and see their thoughts on our project. 

Wednesday, November 7 2018

Our first pitch to outsiders - namely the ITU - was a success, especially with the video. This means that our project already has the potential to generate buy-in right off the bat in a pitch situation. 

However, we received less feedback on our project itself.

Wednesday, November 7 2018

To figure out how to best project and visualize the data we collect, we (adrian) discussed what geomapping tools best fit our needs. We also discussed with Davide F. and Charlotte, who are our supervisors and work in this field. We are having some issues, because our first choice (Google earth) is apperently not embedable in websites. The second choice is Google MyMaps, we discussed many but this seemed to be the best fit, since it's really easy to understand and handle. There is just one problem, Files can not exceed a certain size (5MB for .kml Files). We are still looking at alternatives including CesiumJS, OpenstreetMap, Mapbox, etc.

Wednesday, November 7 2018

We need to provide initial data to our interactive map to locate sand mining zones. 

Wednesday, November 7 2018

To identify hot-spots, we need to get a sense of what would make a sand mining zone a 'no-go' zone. Seeing as how tjere's no general, global or even regional consensus on which zones would be no go zones, we will review literature and cases on current no-go zones, especially of protected ecological or conservation zones, to see how these zones are classified. 

Wednesday, November 7 2018

We created a short video that explains why sand mining is reaching 'crisis' levels and how our project aims to bring data and awareness around the subject. 

The final video is available on this link:


Wednesday, November 7 2018

To make sure the video flows well and connects with our intended audiences, Caleb has shown the video to our individual group members, our classmates, the workshop runners to first see how the video can be improved. The feedbacks were really positive!

Wednesday, November 7 2018

However, after pitching our project realization two weeks into our project, it turned out showing the impact of sand extraction and its environmental (and social) impacts on maps is difficult to show. It is not also data scarce but sand can also disappear for entirely different reasons such as erosion or rise in sea level.

We then asked ourselves the following questions: 

What was our project really about? Our actual stake in it?
Were we not forward thinking enough? Who are we helping? What kinds of data do we need? 

Today we found answers to some of these important questions, and while we're still 'iterating' our project goals, ideas, tools and such, we're getting closer nailing down the tangible things we, as a group, need to start doing to realize our vision.

Saturday, November 10 2018

We came with a first proposal and a working title name (A Shore Thing).
We would create:

An interactive map with a wide collection of data, from satellite images to ecosystem categorizations, to understand the global and local impact of construction sand extraction.

Questions to ask:

  • How we want to apply geoscience to gain data?
  • What is our timeline?
  • Who is this project for?


Saturday, November 10 2018

Today, 01.11.18, after a thorough research and considering various variables such as available data, location, experts contacts, etc. we decided on two hotspots to focus our further analysis on best future practices in construction.

Saturday, November 10 2018

Our new proposal reads:

SANDX - ‘Find the X for Sand’

Highlight “no-go” zones for sand extractions by creating an interactive map with a robust data set that consists of various sources, from satellite images to videos, pictures, and (news) stories that present future impacts of sand extraction on a local and global scale. The project aims to link these extractions sites to the infrastructure projects that demands their continued operation and help key stakeholders make informed decisions about the sand crisis at hand. 

Saturday, November 10 2018

          Information was gathered mainly through interviews with actors connected to the sand industry in Switzerland. A first interview and visit were conducted to the Gravière des Délices which allowed the project in Switzerland to be developed considerably. Indeed, the knowledge of the industry improved remarkably and allowed an objective to be set: we aimed to understand what it meant for a zone to be classified as protected and what measures were taken to protect the environment in the industry. 
Talking with Carole Schelker, from the Geological study office Impact-Concept, it was mentioned that when accessing certain types of zones to excavate sand, compensation measures can be implemented in order to diminish the impact on the environment and fauna. These measures can include building a new hedge or recreating a pong, or in the case of La Gravière des Délices re-planting every tree that was cut down.  Laws vary from one Canton to another, but Vaud is relatively responsible when giving permits to excavating companies. Moreover, a law states that waste created from the related industry has to be disposed in the Canton de Vaud itself, as opposed to Genevans who are known to export their construction waste to landfills in neighboring countries. 

By reading the report Plan Directeur des Carrières 2014  written by the General Direction of the Environment of the Canton de Vaud, it became clear that Switzerland was very-well referencing its own sand extraction sites, whether they are on land, in river or in the lake. It was interesting to notice that a particular place in the East of the Leman Lake is referenced in Red as a No-Go Zone due to the existence of a priority biological interest in the area (cf.  Map 1), particularly due to the presence of migrating birds and amphibians , which therefore needs to be protected. However, all around this area is a sand extracting site held by the private enterprise Sagrave, a well-known player in the lake and river sand excavation. By talking to them, it became evident that sand could also be found in this particular protected area but it was non-accessible as long as it remained protected, not even for geological studies. This No-Go Zone could be declassified should sand come missing in Switzerland. 
What was interesting about the No-Go Zone is that it is classified as such by the Canton de Vaud but not by the World Database of Protected Areas, which we used to classify protected areas in Vietnam. This shows the difference in knowledge and understanding of what classifies an area as protected and how to enforce it: in Switzerland, because the Canton is enforcing the classification of this particular zone, all actors have to choice but to respect it fully. 

Unfortunately, although the Canton de Vaud has some very good practices in terms of Sand excavation with companies like GCM SA making recycled concrete from destruction of old buildings, these alternatives are still new and quite unused, notably due to the high price of products made in Switzerland. Indeed, even the City of Lausanne does not encourage the practice of using “swiss-made”: when calling for bids to construction companies, the city is not allowed to exclude French businesses due to the free-trade agreements with the EU, even though the environment and local access to resource is emphasized in the city’s strategy for Agenda 2021. French companies usually being much cheaper than the Swiss, the chance of them being chosen is considerably higher. One can debate that cities should show the example in choosing local and recyclable materials. 
The high price of Swiss and recycled sand, along with the strict legislation of sand excavation in Switzerland encourages illegal behavior: an article from Le Temps  explains the problem Ticino faces, having most of its sand resources being totally restricted and encourages to import sand from neighboring Italy. These excavation sites are not always legal and accelerate the mountain erosion of Lombardie, but also deeply disturb the fauna. 

Although sand extraction was not seen as a problem by all interviewees, they recognized the importance of having rules and regulations as well as permits in order for good practices to be put in place. The actors also emphasized the importance of the role of the state in regulating the industry and setting “best practices”. A map like SandX will help the state and industry actors understand where permits can be delivered and where they cannot. By implementing good practices as well as testimonials, leaders of the industry are encouraged to work towards a common objective: a safe sand excavation. 


Saturday, November 10 2018

We expanded our scope from Mekong Delta to include all of Vietnam. 

We realize that the situation of sand mining and its impacts in Vietnam would differ vastly from Switzerland, and how no-go zones, conservation zones, etc are defined and identified.

So we opted to take a more case study approach to Vietnam. We looked for international and national frameworks that govern nogo zone selection. 

Saturday, November 10 2018

Our theory of change is quite straightforward. By listing no-go zones we hope to change sand extraction companies' behaviors. Indeed we would be stressing how detrimental their practices can be on the environment by highlighting no-go zones, meaning zones that are environmentally vulnerable and that should be protected. As such, we are attempting to encourage policymakers as well as companies to move away from these sites and start implementing our best practices guideline. 

Our reasoning was inspired by the following article: https://www.theoryofchange.org/what-is-theory-of-change/

Thursday, November 15 2018

As we explain in our theory of change section, we hope that by highlighting no-go zones, we encourage the private sector as well as policymakers to act accordingly and implement best practices in respect to the environment. This entails, of course, a paradigm shift. We've all heard of the transition from a linear to a circular economy. This would entail thinking differently regarding the economy and the environment where the latter actually englobes the former and we strive for a sustainable way of life

Thursday, November 15 2018

Evidently, as we are in a SDG framework, our project applies to several of the sustainable development goals. Our objective intrinsically relates to the SDG 14 and 15 which, as a reminder, seek to preserve life on land and below water. SDG14 as a whole aims at “Conserve and sustainably use the oceans, seas and marine resources for sustainable development” which our project strongly advocates for as the majority of sand extraction sites take place underwater and its impacts are devastating for the surrounding ecosystem. SDG 15, which can be defined as so: “Protect, restore and promote sustainable use of terrestrial ecosystems, sustainably manage forests, combat desertification, and halt and reverse land degradation and halt biodiversity loss”. The latter part of the SDG 15 is what pertains most to our project as we touch upon the preservation of land which contains sand and as a correlation the protection of biodiversity in that area. 


Thursday, November 15 2018

In every project, idea, initiative, one has to set its monitoring criteria. One has to be realistic, that is why we have to set the following thresholds as a way to monitor our progress and success. 

As a first step to test our project, checking for availability, quantity, and quality of data is a good way to assess if it's worth going further. 

Secondly, once that has been verified, taking feedback from experts and organisations can be of great importance as they are our main target audience and can give us valuable advice. 

Our overall achievement in making our platform is also a form of monitoring progress and success of our project. This indicates the feasibility of the latter as well. 

Finally, even with everything in place, i.e. data and website, the message or story we try to convey can remain lost or ununderstood by our target audience which can lead to overall failure of the project. 

Thursday, November 15 2018

Over the last few weeks we have been contacting and connecting experts and company in the fields of sand, cartography, academics, geography, journalism, awareness, etc. to find data and to ask them for their opinion on the project.

Friday, November 16 2018

To achieve our project research and hard work is crucial and there are four main areas we need to become experts in: platform building, mapping, "no-go" zones, and our two hotspots Switzerland and Vietnam/Mekong Delta.

Friday, November 16 2018
Friday, November 16 2018

Visite de la Gravière des Délices – 15.11.2018

Alice and Natacha visited a land-extracting site based in Apples called la Gravière des Délices. We have learned a lot thanks to this experience particularly on the good and bad practices in Switzerland, including names of players we were unable to find online previously. We have made an incredible jump forward thanks to information we received. We’ve noted some information in bullet points below:

General Information:

  • A quarry like this one requires about two million investments in geological research before even knowing if there will be a possibility to exploit the site. This research takes about 10 years.
  • Each canton in Switzerland has its own regulations and constraints.
  • Followed by different offices, geologists 1 time per month
  • The quarry can be exploited for about 15-20 years and then the “living earth” is put back with plants so it starts becoming green again. There are no particular laws as to how this is done, but it requires a lot of research to do it well.
  • We also find a lot of sand in other mining actions such as petrol mining in Texas. Fracking, we do not know what to do with this sand and it is a catastrophe in Canada because they leave it there.
  • Ireland is the world leader in research and development of this fracked sand.
  • Every 6 months they calculate how much sand has been extracted because the agricultor is paid according to this. A Geometor bureau does this.
  • The industry is changing and slowly moving towards more recycled materials, but the norms have not yet followed and therefore the energy price remains very expensive.
  • For roads, we use rare rocks typically found in the Alps (morenes)

Good practices:

  • According to the law in the Canton de Vaux (DGE), 70% of sand transportation has to be done by train. This requires further investment to make the train come all the way to the site. They do not have the CO2 numbers but they know they are about 10 times less polluting than a company using trucks as a mode of transportation. Sites which do use trucks refuse to give their CO2 calculations.
  • They recycle 99% of their water, making them use about 10’000 cubic liters of water per year in a closed cycle, which is nothing compared to other sites (1 million cubic liters on average)
  • They have kept their water zones as to not disturb the birds and ducks, which are still landing there today.
  • They use sheeps to regulate the grass height.
  • First start with a layer of mud, than with waste from another extraction site (construction for example), and finish with the living earth that was put aside when you first started digging. 4 years after the end of the works of the quarry, the land can be given back for agriculture.
  • The impact in terms of surface is very limited so it is homogenous with the sights of the people living close by, which by default oppose to these types of projects.
Friday, November 16 2018

At a hackathon on sand our team was able to collaborate with people from outside, gain valuable data for our map and discuss other aspects of the sand crisis.

Friday, November 16 2018

Where does the demand for sand come from?

By plotting local infrastructure demands, we can reasonably map out what the demand for sand. Sand is probably being injected here. 

Just as significant is mapping the potential spots the project may source sand from.

Friday, November 16 2018

To figure out which sand extraction sites should not be mined from, we are first finding coordinates for vulnerable zones, communities, and conservation sites in Vietnam.

Friday, November 16 2018

Would a Google Earth video help explain how the map works?

Friday, November 16 2018

Visite SAGRAVE SA : Laurent Gaillet

On Friday 23.11.18 Alice and Natacha visited one of the largest sand extracting company from lake in Switzerland. Although the interview was extensive, we did not leave with as much information as we did during the first one. We however know who to contact next in order to finish the analysis of Switzerland.

  • The extraction of Sand at the Rhône Delta also helps the municipality as they are cleaning out the river from tree branches and other waste.
  • There is a huge project worth of 55 million to create a real Rhône Delta to help sediments navigate and develop the flore and fauna.
  • The zone where sediments are being excavated at the moment will not go on much longer as almost everything has been excavated. However, there is another zone but it is currently protected for environmental reasons.
  • In France and notable in the area of the lake they are not allowed to excavate sand due to a prefectoral decree. Lakes are considered as a continuity of a river and are therefore also out of the question.
  • This particular entreprise has mainly local clients such as the LOZINGER MARAZZI business.
  • They have set up electrical cranes to make less noise.
  • They follow the ISO norms for their rocks, which quality is also tested by the R Tech insurance as to respect quality norms (CH or EU).

People to talk to:

  • WWF Mr. Bongard who is in charge of the protected zone of Les Grangettes
  • Bureau Impact Concept
  • DGE ingénieur canton de Vaud
  • A business in Clé Aux Moines which makes new buildings from recycled demolition material
Friday, November 23 2018

Possible Partners who helped us until now and showed interest into our project:

- WWF Water Risk Filter
- Sandstories.org
- UN Environment
- International Telecommunication Union​ (ITU)
- Shifting Sand (fellow project)
- Mine the Gap (fellow project)

Thursday, November 29 2018

Depending on how many wish to continue this project, we have several hopes for SandX. 

As a first step, we would like to create partnerships with most likely NGOs, UN agencies or perhaps private companies.

Then, we hope to expand our case studies to a more global scale with the help of crowdsourcing through the platform zoouniverse. 

Once our map takes a fuller, more complete appearance and content, we are thinking of providing licenses to companies or whoever wishes to export our map to their platform.  

Thursday, December 13 2018

On Friday, 07.12.18 SandX pitched the project to a group of experts, international organizations and interested public at the SDG Solution Space in Geneva. The feedback received was overall, very positive. Several organizations would be interested in exploring the possibility of further collaboration with the project . According to SandX's measuring and monitoring indicators this made it a very successful day.


Friday, December 14 2018