Use sand resources ‘wisely’ or risk development fallout – UNEP report |

Sand and Sustainability: 10 Strategic Recommendations to Avert Crisismake it clear that the world cannot continue to take 50 billion tons of sand out of the earth and sea every year without serious consequences.

Pascal Peduzzi, Director of GRID-Geneva at UNEP and reporting program coordinator.

“To achieve sustainable development, we need to drastically change the way we produce, build and consume products, infrastructure and services.”

Precious resource

After water, sand is the most used resource globally.

The world uses 50 billion tons of sand and gravel every year, enough to build a wall 27 meters wide and 27 meters high around planet Earth.

The new report says that because of our reliance on it, sand must be recognized as a strategic resource and its extraction and use needs to be reconsidered.

“If we can get a handle on how to manage the most extracted solid material in the world, we can avert the crisis and move towards a circular economy,” said Mr. Peduzzi.

Extract with heart

The report provides guidance on moving to improved methods for resource extraction and management.

According to its authors, sand must be recognized not only as a construction material, but also as a strategic resource with multiple roles in the environment.

Mining of sand from rivers and coastal or marine ecosystems can lead to erosion, salinization of aquifers, loss of protection against storm surges and impacts on biodiversity – causing Threats to livelihoods, including the water supply, food production or fisheries, as well as the tourism industry.

The authors emphasize that governments, industries and consumers should price sand in a way that recognizes its true social and environmental value.

Transfer sand?

Keeping sand on shores may be the most cost-effective strategy for climate adaptation as it protects against storms and sea level rise. They argue that such services should be included in its value.

Furthermore, the report proposes to develop an international standard on how sand is extracted from the marine environment, noting that it could bring about significant improvements since most marine dredging is done through public tender, open to international companies.

It also recommends banning sand mining from beaches because it is critical to coastal resilience, the environment and the economy.

Given our dependence on sand, it should be seen as a strategic resource and Extraction and use need to be reevaluated“, Mr. Peduzzi attested.

Impact of the Global Goals

As an essential element for the production of concrete for critical infrastructure, sand is vital to economic development.

It also provides habitat for plants and animals while also supporting biodiversity, including marine plants that act as carbon sinks or water filters.

Despite its importance in achieving Sustainable development goals (SDG) and addressing the three-planet crisis of climate change, pollution and biodiversity loss, sand is being used faster than it can be replenished naturally, making its responsible management become important.

Round economy

Prohibition of landfilling of mineral waste and promotion of sand reuse in public procurement contracts are among the policy measures cited that will aid the move towards an ethical, circular economy for sand.

The report also details that crushed rock, recycled construction, demolition materials and ‘ore sand’ from mine waste are viable alternatives that should be encouraged.

For sand to be more efficiently managed and best practices implemented, new legal and institutional structures are needed.

The report recommends, and all those involved in management decisions, to allow place-based approaches and avoid one-size-fits-all solutions. emphasize.

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