Sand is one of the most illegally traded substances (by volume) in the world, the most extracted material worldwide, and the second most consumed resource after water. Estimates from the UN state that at least 40 billion tonnes of sand are consumed every year, which is twice the yearly amount carried by all the rivers in the world. Sand mining activities involve dredging in riverine, coastal or inland areas.
Sand demand has increased significantly worldwide in the last 30 years. According to Coastalcare, an organisation which raises awareness of coastal sand mining, cases of coastal sand mining, both legal and illegal, have been recorded in 73 countries across five continents.
Sand mining causes a plethora of environmental and social impacts, ranging from the criminal activities of so-called “sand mafias”, to coastal and riverbed damage. Sand mining impacts the sedimentation processes, leading to both increased and decreased downstream sedimentation, as well as the destruction of natural habitats, ecosystems and biodiversity. Sand mining is also linked to the lowering of water tables, which has real consequences for hydrological systems.
The social impacts of sand mining, beyond the emergence local criminal networks exploiting sand mining, include the destabilisation of infrastructure, such as bridges, roads and river embankments, due to the weakening of banks. This, in turn, has hurt tourist industries in many coastal areas, as visitors avoid areas with insecure infrastructure.
In this paper, you will find:
- An introduction to the increasing demand for sand and the drivers behind it
- Information on sand sourcing’s negative effects on both environmental systems and society
- An overview of existing responsible initiatives attempting to tackle the issue
- Recommendations to encourage the responsible sourcing of sand
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