Drowning for Sand

To meet rising demand from a booming construction sector, Indian sand miners are dying diving to get the precious commodity.

Although there is no official data, studies estimate illegal extraction of sand in India generates about $150 million a year with the states of Gujarat and Maharashtra the main hotspots.

About 75,000 men, many from India's poorest areas, who work illegally as sand miners along Vasai Creek, diving 40 feet (12 metres) into pitchblack waters clutching just a metal rod for balance and an iron bucket to fill with sand.

For the miners, the soaring demand means a 12-hour work cycle that starts with setting sail into the creek at midnight to find a good spot to dive.

At dawn, the divers begin, descending to the creek bed up to 200 times over the next six hours, coming up for air after every 30 to 40 second dive.

The dives are getting deeper as more sand is removed. None of the workers are given any safety equipment.

Sand mining has been declared illegal in most parts of India with countless court petitions highlighting the danger it poses to coastlines, marine life, and sand reserves.