Due to a high demand for sand, we are currently experiencing a global sand shortage and most people are not aware it is even an issue. Overuse of these global supplies for other purposes is having harmful effects on communities across the world, even promoting violent conflicts in some circumstances. In Vietnam, for example, the demand for sand far exceeds the reserves the country has, which means it could run out of construction sand by 2020.
The High Demand For Sand
Sand and gravel are the two most-extracted materials in the world, even beyond fossil fuels and biomass. It is a key ingredient for roads, concrete, glass and electronics, and large amounts of sand are used for land reclamation, beach renourishment and shale gas extraction. After the recent destruction of Hurricane Harvey in Houston, for example, there will be a massive demand for sand in the area.
In the past, sand had traditionally been a local product. However, as regional shortages have occurred due to over-extraction, it has skyrocketed in value on an international level. In fact, its value is nearly six times now what it was 25 years ago.
Effects Of Over-extraction
The importance of sand in our environment is emphasized when we see the effects over-extraction has had on regions across the world. Extensive extraction can have dramatic results on ecosystems, physically altering rivers and coasts, increasing suspended sediment counts and causing more erosion.
In addition, research shows sand mining operations have been having an effect on numerous animal species. Many fish, dolphins, crustaceans and crocodiles are put into danger by sand mining. The gharial, a critically endangered Asian river crocodile, is increasingly being threatened by sand mining, which has been rapidly destroying and eroding sand banks where they live.
Beaches and wetlands have suffered a significant amount of erosion, and that does not just affect animals. People’s livelihoods can depend on these environments. In many cases, these environments provide a buffer for coastal communities against disaster and surging seas. Increased erosion makes communities more vulnerable to floods and storms.
Another report, published by the Water Integrity Network, indicated sand mining made the affects of the 2004 Indian Ocean tsunami in Sri Lanka significantly worse. Sand mining in the Mekong Delta, meanwhile, has been reducing sediment supplies, which threatens the delta’s sustainability. It also enhances saltwater intrusion during dry seasons, which threatens the viability of water and food supplies for local communities.
While coverage of this issue is growing, it is still an issue of global importance that most people have not heard anything about. Only through international agreements and regulation will the effects of the sand shortage be slowed.
Contact us today at Soil Advocates for more information about the importance of sand in the environment.