Sand Mining Poses Serious Threat to Marine Life and Water Supply, Warns UN
Sand, a resource that is often taken for granted, is facing a troubling issue: overuse. According to the United Nations Environment Programme (UNEP), approximately six billion tons of sand are extracted from the world’s oceans every year, leading to concerns about its sustainability and the potential harm it poses to marine life.
Pascal Peduzzi, the director of GRID-Geneva at UNEP, emphasized the significant impact of sand extraction during a press briefing. He referred to the amount of sand being withdrawn from the environment as considerable and alarming. The consequences of these activities include biodiversity loss, increased water turbidity, and noise disturbances affecting marine mammals.
Despite being a crucial resource for various industries such as metal and chemical production, water filtration, and construction, sand extraction has not been subjected to strict regulations until recently. In response to these environmental concerns, the UN passed a resolution last year to encourage more sustainable mining practices.
UNEP’s findings have prompted the launch of Marine Sand Watch, a new platform that utilizes artificial intelligence and marine tracking to monitor dredging activities. Dredging, which involves ships acting like giant vacuum cleaners, is responsible for sterilizing the seabed and destroying microorganisms that sustain marine life. Peduzzi warned that in locations where all the sand is removed, the ecological damage may be irreparable.
Another alarming fact highlighted by UNEP is that rivers around the world are not depositing enough sand each year to replenish what is being extracted. This highlights the urgent need for better management of this vital resource.
Data analytics and sand industry officer Arnaud Vander Velpen from the University of Geneva identified several dredging hotspots, including the North Sea, the South China Sea, and the East Coast of the U.S. Countries involved in significant dredging activities include the United States, the Netherlands, China, and Belgium.
Recognizing the need for action, Peduzzi called for improved management of marine sand resources and the reduction of dredging’s environmental impacts. He urged all stakeholders, member states, and the dredging sector to view sand as a strategic material and engage in discussions on how to enhance dredging standards globally.
To address these concerns, some countries have already taken action by banning the export of marine sand. This includes nations like Malaysia, Cambodia, Vietnam, Thailand, and Indonesia.
Sand is a vital component of our society. It is used in the production of concrete, glass, and asphalt for roads. With the increasing demand for construction materials due to the growing emphasis on the green transition, sand remains indispensable. Despite its importance, it is crucial that we find a balance between meeting our needs and ensuring the long-term sustainability of this finite resource.
The issue of sand mining demands immediate attention and a collaborative effort from all stakeholders. By adopting sustainable mining practices and stricter regulations, we can protect our marine ecosystems and secure the future availability of this invaluable resource. Failure to do so may result in irreversible harm, jeopardizing both marine life and our water supply. Let us work together to address this pressing concern and ensure a sustainable future for all.