Couple takes sand from Italy beach, faces jail for 'stealing'
If you've ever been to a beach, you might have felt the impulse to pick up seashells, or fill up a bottle with sand to take home. That's what a French couple did when they visited the Italian island of Sardinia last week. Little did they know that the sand they took was protected, and now they face up to 6 years in prison.
The French couple, in their 40s, filled 14 plastic bottles with the 90 pounds of white sand as "souvenirs" from Chia beach in southern Sardinia. A bit much? The Italian newspaper Corriere Della Sera reported that the couple put the bottles in the trunk of their SUV. They then tried boarding a ferry, bound for Toulon, France, from the northern city of Porto Torres.
Meanwhile, Italy's law enforcement agency Guardia di Finanza, while conducting routine checks on cars waiting to board the ferry, spotted the bottles filled with sand, and arrested the couple. According to CNN, they were reported to a Sassari city court for aggravated theft. They now face imprisonment from one to six years, and also risk a fine of up to €3,000 (Rs. 2.4 lakh).
On their part, the couple said they weren't aware that the sand was protected. However, authorities maintain that there are plenty of signs in several languages across the island's beaches that prohibit visitors from taking the sand with them.
In case you're wondering that this is just an absurd law, there's a reason why it was introduced. Lakhs of visitors throng the picturesque white beaches in Italy each year, and many of them would do what the French couple did. Authorities report that visitors take away tons of sand, seashells, etc., from Italian beaches annually, harming their existence. This leads to environmental degradation.
Across Sardinia's beaches, theft of white sand and rocks is pretty common. Visitors steal the white beach sand and sell it on eBay. Authorities confirm there's an illegal market for this online. Sand thieves are usually caught red-handed at airports during searches. In August 2017, a law was introduced to make it illegal for tourists to take sand, pebbles or seashells from Sardinian beaches.
"Sandy beaches are one of the main attractions of Sardinia," an environmental scientist told BBC. "There are two threats- one due to erosion, which is partly natural and partly induced by the increasing sea level due to climate change; the second is stealing by tourists."