STORY: The world faces a looming sand crisis, the UN has warned as the world’s population surges.
They’ve called for urgent action to avert it, including a ban on mining beaches for their sand.
(Name: Pascal Peduzzi , U.N. Environment Programme)
“It’s renewing at a geological rate, and we are extracting it at such a fast rate.”
Let’s take a look at what is causing the damage and where.
Sand is the most exploited natural resource in the world after water.
It's used in glass, concrete and constriction materials but it's use is largely ungoverned, meaning we are consuming it faster than it can be replaced by geological processes that take hundreds of thousands of years.
Global consumption has tripled over two decades to reach 50 billion tonnes a year -- that's the equivalent of about 37 pounds per person each day.
Sand extraction is harming rivers, coastlines and could even wipe out small islands.
One example is a Sri Lankan river where sand removal reversed the water flow.
That means ocean water is heading inland and bringing salt-water crocodiles with it.
Removal like this is happening around the world to feed construction.
Meanwhile, the longest river in Southeast Asia, the Mekong River, is sinking.
Pascal Peudzzi is the UN Environment Program Director:
“There is so much sand taken out of the Mekong delta that the delta is sinking, also because of water’s withdrawing and on top of that, you have sea level rise, so you’re losing ground, you’re getting more salinization of these fertile soils. So, we are going to see a lot of impacts that is the crisis that is looming and that we want to avert.”
Demand is now seen as shifting to Africa where villagers often remove sand from lakes to beaches to build growing cities.
This puts coastlines more at risk to the impact of climate change such as more powerful storms.
So what are the solutions?
The UN recommends a ban on beach extraction and to set an international standard for marine dredging as it harms ocean biodiversity.
It also calls ways to reduce demand – by reusing sand from recycled materials like concrete and from the waste left over from mining.