Tuesday, August 29, 2006

Dirt Cheap

And going fast:

Rome, August 29 - Italian environmentalists are worried about the future of the country's finest beaches, which they say are threatened by a growing trade in 'souvenir sand'.

Concern flared after it was discovered that an enterprising German was trying to sell packets of sand from a beach on the island of Elba over the Internet.

The seller, who is still nameless, posted an advert on the German eBay website offering packets of sand for 1.99 euros each. There were photos of the little sachets alongside the offer.

"It's a new fad for collectors which is putting our natural resources in danger," said Umberto Mazzantini of Legambiente. Illegal trading in sand from Italy's beaches was aimed at a market of sand collectors which was expanding fast, he continued, adding that buyers were both tourists and people interested in minerals.

However, when property rights were introduced, the story changed:

One famous case involved the 'Spiaggia Rosa', a Sardinian beach famed for its pink sand. The sand appealed to many visitors so much that they started taking it away and the beach began to lose its distinctive colour.

Here the problem was confronted by limiting the number of people allowed onto the beach in a day and making them pay for the privilege of being there.

Some expected this approach to make people even keener to take away some sand, as a sort of payback for their entry fee. But in fact it seemed to make visitors more aware of the beach's value and fragility .

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