Imagine a beach without sand. Impossible, right? But sand not only affects the landscape we enjoy. Did you know that it is the second most used resource after water, but it is only regulated in some parts of the world? This fact is causing real problems for the environment.
SOME DATA ON THIS NATURAL RESOURCE
Every year, 59 million tons of materials are extracted worldwide, up to 85% of which is construction sand. After water and ahead of fossil fuels, it is the second most demanded natural resource and there is an international black market that trades it at the price of gold.
In addition, some reports suggest that global demand is increasing as the world’s population grows and more infrastructure is built. According to a 2019 UN report, global demand for sand and gravel is estimated to reach 82 billion tons by 2060.
It is important to note that their use may vary according to geographic regions and predominant economic activities. For example, building construction and glass manufacturing are major consumers of this material in some parts of the world. In contrast, in other regions, the oil industry or recreational sand production may be the main users.
In 2019, the UN published a report entitled: “Sand Mining: economic, environmental and social impacts on natural resource management“, highlighting:
- Demand for this natural resource is increasing globally and unregulated extraction can negatively affect coastal ecosystems, water bodies, and the local communities that depend on these resources.
- There is a relationship between sand mining and climate change, as well as the role sand, plays in building sustainable and resilient infrastructure.
In summary, this report explains the need for better management and regulation of sand mining.
AND WHERE DOES IT COME FROM?
It is found in large quantities in nature and is extracted from rivers, lakes, oceans, and dunes. Its quality and available quantity vary according to geographic location and geological composition.
It is formed from the erosion of rocks and minerals, which can take a long time to occur naturally. The natural regeneration of sand depends on several factors:
Climate affects the rate of erosion and sedimentation. In general, areas with wetter climates tend to have a higher rate of sedimentation, which can help regenerate sand more quickly.
The topography of an area also affects the rate of erosion and sedimentation. For example, areas with steeper slopes tend to have a higher rate of erosion, which can decrease the amount of this resource available in a given area.
Natural processes of erosion and sedimentation also affect the amount of sand available in a given area. Rivers and streams can transport it from one area to another, which can help regenerate it in a particular area.
If we add to this, the massive extraction without respecting its natural times, we have a decrease in available sand, which negatively affects aquatic and terrestrial ecosystems.
SAND AND THE BLACK MARKET
There is a black market for sand in some parts of the world. Illegal extraction and trade of this resource can occur in areas where demand is high and controls are lax, leading to overexploitation and environmental degradation.
In some countries, such as India and others in Southeast Asia, illegal extraction of this material from rivers and beaches has been reported. Illegally mined sand is often sold at lower prices than on the legal market and used for construction and other industrial purposes.
In addition, some countries are reported to import sand illegally from elsewhere, which can have serious environmental consequences for the regions from which it is extracted. The problem of illegal trade in this natural resource, which may also be related to human trafficking and labor exploitation, is increasing.
If you are wondering how to make this problem disappear, at the moment, there is only one known way: by implementing responsible mining practices and adopting alternative technologies to reduce the need for sand in certain industries.