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Sand is over-exploited and an environmental disaster says UN. Sand is everywhere. In infrastructure, bridges, roads, glass, cosmetics ... Sand is the most used raw material after water.

However, this resource is not unlimited and its extraction has disastrous consequences on the environment.  At this rate, by 2100, almost all of the beaches may have disappeared. A UN report calls for an international framework for its use.

It is the most used raw material after water.

Sand, an essential component of concrete, is used everywhere. In roads, bridges, buildings, glass and even cosmetics.

Each year 40 to 50 billion tonnes of sand are extracted.

The construction of an average house requires for example the use of 200 tonnes of sand. However, the demand for this resource is constantly increasing, warns a UN report.

“Displacement, consumption habits, population growth, urbanization and infrastructure development … the demand for sand has tripled in the last two decades,” notes Joyce Msuya, executive director of the United Nations Environment Program. “We now need 50 billion tonnes per year, an average of 18 kg per person per day.”

Disappearance of 24 Indonesian islands

However the extraction of sand has a real environmental impact.

” The fact of taking sand on the beach removes the natural defenses that one has against storm waves. This has an impact on coastal floods”, recalled at RFI Pascal Peduzzi, of the United Nations Program for environment. “When you extract sand from rivers, if you dig the bottom, the dynamics of the river will change. There may be slowdowns, or accelerations, giving rise to more frequent or more intense floods, or droughts”.

Singapore is the largest importer of sand in the world.

According to the report, the city-state has increased its area by 20% over the past 40 years to meet population growth.

The sand is mainly imported from Indonesia.

This import is said to be responsible for the disappearance of 24 Indonesian islands.

The impact on biodiversity is also pointed out.

Industrialists are dredging more and more rivers, lakes and seabed, most of the mines and sand quarries being exhausted.

A practice which contributes to the destruction of underwater spaces and which disturbs ecosystems.

Supervise sand extraction

“For one of the most traded materials on the planet, awareness of generalized impacts is very low,” attests the report. “It is one of the least regulated activities in many regions.”

The researchers thus point to the presence of a sand Mafia in the Maghreb and particularly in Morocco.

To meet the challenges of sustainability, the UN proposes the establishment of international regulations to regulate the extraction of sand and require more transparency.

The authors emphasize the need to reduce the construction of infrastructure and to use alternatives to concrete.


Download The UN Report 

UN Report Sand



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Sand is over-exploited and an environmental disaster says UN


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