BANGKOK (Thomson Reuters Foundation) – Sand mining is eroding the world’s river deltas and coastlines, damaging the environment and hurting livelihoods from Cambodia to Colombia, as government regulation fails to keep pace with rising demand, the United Nations warned on Tuesday.
Global demand for sand and gravel, used extensively in construction, is about 50 billion tonnes or an average of 18 kg (40 lb) per person per day, according to a report published by the UN Environment Programme (UNEP).
Extraction in rivers and beaches has increased pollution and flooding, lowered groundwater levels, hurt marine life, and exacerbated the occurrence and severity of landslides and drought, it said.
“We are spending our sand ‘budget’ faster than we can produce it responsibly,” Joyce Msuya, UNEP’s acting executive director, said in a statement. “For one of the most traded commodities on the planet, it is one of the least regulated activities, and there is very low general awareness about extraction impacts.”
Growing populations, increasing urbanization, land reclamation projects, and rapid infrastructure development in countries such as China and India have increased demand for sand three-fold over the last two decades, the UNEP said.