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.
email@example.com sandx_org on Instagram
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.
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.)
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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:
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!
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.
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:
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.
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.
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.
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.
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/
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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:
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.
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.
People to talk to:
Possible Partners who helped us until now and showed interest into our project:
- WWF Water Risk Filter
- UN Environment
- International Telecommunication Union (ITU)
- Shifting Sand (fellow project)
- Mine the Gap (fellow project)
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.
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.