Every day, 18 kg of sand and gravel are mined by every inhabitant of the planet for the manufacture of concrete, asphalt and glass. Changes in consumption patterns, population growth and urbanization have tripled their demand over the past 20 years, and are now being used more than what is happening naturally, which negatively affects our planet.
Global demand for sand and gravel, which is about 50 billion tons per year, is the main polluter and causes flooding in some cases, when depletion of aquifers in others, and even contributes to worsening droughts, reveals a new UN report on the environment.
Sand and gravel are the main unrecognized materials of farms. They operate around the world and represent the largest amount of solids mined in the world. Without them, there would be no concrete, asphalt or glass for the construction of schools, hospitals, roads, solar panels and other infrastructure necessary for systems and methods of construction and industrial production. current.
The Arena and Sustainable Development report showed how changes in consumption patterns, population growth, constant urbanization, and infrastructure development have tripled the demand for this raw material over the past 20 years.
In addition, dams and mining activities have reduced river sediment reserves in many coastal areas, which has led to a reduction in sediments in the river delta and accelerated beach erosion.
“We spend our sand budget faster than we can do it responsibly.” By improving global sand resource management, we can more effectively manage this vital resource and demonstrate that infrastructure and nature can move forward. Joyce Msuya, Acting UN Executive Director for the Environment.
The purpose of the report is a global discussion on the management of these resources, the most mined and sold volume after water.
Due to the fact that sand mining is regulated differently throughout the world, regions important for biodiversity and ecosystems are becoming increasingly vulnerable to problems resulting from the local application of these rules. In addition, there is a growing trend of illegal and unsustainable mining in marine, coastal and freshwater ecosystems.
In addition, sand mining becomes a transboundary problem. International trade in resources is increasing due to high demand in areas where there are no local banks, and is expected to increase by 5.5% annually, depending on urbanization and infrastructure development.
Unsustainable sand mining not only affects the environment, but can also have significant social consequences. For example, removing sand from beaches can jeopardize the development of the local tourism industry, while removing sand from rivers and mangroves leads to a reduction in the crabs population, which is detrimental to the harvesters of these crustaceans. These are mainly women whose lifestyle depends on this profession.
In countries such as India and China, as well as in other countries in Asia, Africa and South America, numerous mining operations are underway. sand does not comply with environmental regulations, and social consequences have already been noted.
For example, Cambodia, Vietnam and Indonesia are legal and illegal sources of aggregate materials for the development of a regional economic corridor and land reclamation projects in Southeast Asia. Sierra Leone, Kenya, Tanzania in Africa and Colombia in South America were identified as areas with sustainability issues for this sector.
Extraction to the detriment of others
These examples, among other things, demonstrate that uncontrolled mining occurs at the expense of other sectors of the economy, local livelihoods and biodiversity. Direct security risks for people who work in the area and live in communities where this is done include sinking workers who remove sand from canals, subsidence and landslides in the areas where they live. ; extract.
Legal and illegal activities are increasingly reported in adjacent areas and even in established reserves and protected areas of biodiversity. Unique places that were provided to society are so important from one point of view. Ecological and cultural view that they can not adapt to economic activities that are incompatible with the biophysical integrity of these ecosystems. Negative impacts have already been reported for marine and freshwater fish, as well as for birds and endangered species such as turtles and dolphins.
The need for a new policy
The report also warns that meeting the needs of ten billion people without harming the environment will require effective planning, regulatory and management policies.
Currently, the extraction and use of sand is determined by its local geography and management context and does not have the same rules, practices and ethics throughout the world. The purpose of the report is the starting point from which a productive global conversation on sand mining can begin.
To reduce irresponsible and illegal mining, UN-Environment proposes to adapt existing standards and best practices to national conditions. It also seeks to invest in monitoring and measuring the production and consumption of sand, and suggests establishing a dialogue between the main participants and stakeholders