Land of sand: reclaiming the sea, landscapes and lives in Malacca, Malaysia

Laura Cipriani*

*Corresponding author for this work

Research output: Contribution to journalArticleScientificpeer-review

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Today, the landscapes of Asia—and Southeast Asia in particular—are undergoing major transformations, many of which are due to urbanisation processes that impact coastal areas. These are often controversial reclamation projects, generically referred to as the ‘war of sand’—an (in)visible conflict named for the raw material used to develop artificial land for property development. In Malacca, Malaysia, coastal urbanisation engenders serious environmental damage via the elimination of mangroves, deterioration of water quality and marine ecosystems, and erosion. It also causes severe social and economic transformation that leads to specific social dynamics marked by the marginalisation of certain ethnic minorities. This invites us to rethink the right to the city and the landscape in the moment of reclaiming land. For this purpose, this article describes how coastal development and reclamation projects are heavily mining local communities and the environment. The sand war, it turns out, is not purely a resource-grabbing conflict nor a real estate process with heavy environmental implications, but an implicit war against ethnic and religious communities. Inequality is a consequence not by accident but by design.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)888-910
Number of pages23
Issue number5-6
Publication statusPublished - 2022


  • coastal urbanisation
  • land grab
  • land reclamation
  • Malacca desert
  • sand war
  • Southeast Asia reclamation


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