Yes, it’s come to this. Mafia-like organizations killing people to control access to sand. In India alone, hundreds of people were killed last year over this. It turns out we use 40 billion tons of sand and gravel a year, and sources of the right kind needed for construction and infrastructure are becoming more scarce. The article describes the problem and challenges, but only feeble attempts so far at providing solutions.

THE KILLERS ROLLED slowly down the narrow alley, three men jammed onto a single motorcycle. It was a little after 11 am on July 31, 2013, the sun beating down on the low, modest residential buildings lining a back street in the Indian farming village of Raipur Khadar. Faint smells of cooking spices, dust, and sewage seasoned the air. The men stopped the bike in front of the orange door of a two-story brick-and-plaster house …

Despite the masks, the family had no doubts about who was behind the killing. For 10 years Paleram had been campaigning to get local authorities to shut down a powerful gang of criminals headquartered in Raipur Khadar. The “mafia,” as people called them, had for years been robbing the village of a coveted natural resource, one of the most sought-after commodities of the 21st century: sand.