* | Carlsbergfondet
Til bevillingsoversigt

Mapping and Monitoring Sand Mining in Southern Asia

Carlsberg Foundation Reintegration Fellowships


In this project, I will conduct the first large scale study of sand mining in the world. The aim is to provide the first mapping of local sand mining in Southern Asia, construct a real-time detection system using modern satellite imagery for sand mining activities, and produce a short-term prediction model for future sand mining activities.


Rapid urbanization and global population growth have fueled the demand for sand and gravel. Consequently, we are now starting to exhaust a resource that most people consider infinite. Astonishingly, despite the central importance of sand across the developing and developed world, we possess no clear global overview, or statistics, of the sand resources available or those being mined. This has led to a lack of sustainable exploitation, planning and trade and a chaotic pattern of sand extraction.

In the face of this sand mining chaos, a monitoring program is urgently required to address the current data and knowledge gap, and thus fully assess the magnitude of local sand mining.


The backbone of the project are manual and automated remote sensing procedures build to detect sand mining in the catchment areas of the Brahmaputra, Ganges, and Mekong river system. By combining spatial statistical modelling of geomorphological features and cutting edge artificial intelligent (AI) algorithms the project aims to:

  1. Map the occurrence of sand mining in the Brahmaputra, Ganges, and Mekong River systems.
  2. Produce a real-time detection system of sand mining via satellite images using AI algorithms.
  3. Produce a spatial forecast of near future sand mining within the study regions.


Sand extraction exerts far-reaching effects on ecology, local infrastructure, national economies and the livelihood of those who live along the world’s rivers and their floodplains. These active sources of sand are of vital importance, as they form the foundation of key global ecosystems and support a wide range of societal benefits. Yet, these sources are also the most easily exploited due to ease of access and low levels of regulation.

Obtaining a better overview of sand extraction from the world’s rivers – both legal and illegal – would raise the issue on the political agenda, and foster engagement between the public, scientific community and policy makers, which is essential to establish a sustainable future use of this resource.