Extraction of sand along oceans’ shorelines as well as riverbeds must be capped to limit damage to fragile ecosystems and shield coastal communities from storm surges, the UN Environment Program (UNEP) said in a report.
the report, Sand and Sustainability: 10 Strategic Recommendations to Avert a Crisis, was compiled by the UNEP GRID-Geneva team. It reveals that after water, sand is the most exploited resource on the planet, with 50 billion metric tons harvested annually to build highways and apartment complexes.
Despite playing a crucial role in the delivery of ecosystem services, supporting economic development and providing livelihoods to local communities, harvesting of sand has failed sustainability tests, says the UNEP report.
According to the Xinhua news agency, present extraction surpasses natural sand replenishment rates, and unregulated sand harvesting has often resulted in salinization of coastal aquifers, delta shrinkage, air pollution, and damage to fisheries and tourism sectors.
According to the report, limiting the exploitation of sand will be key to attaining the 17 sustainable development goals while boosting action on the triple planetary crisis of climate change, pollution and biodiversity loss.
“Our sand resources are not infinite, and we need to use them wisely,” says Pascal Peduzzi, the Director of GRID-Geneva at UNEP and overall program coordinator of the report. “If we can get a grip on how to manage the most extracted solid material in the world, we can avert a crisis and move toward a circular economy,” he added.
The UNEP research emphasises that if governments introduced progressive legislation, it was possible to put an end to unsustainable sand harvesting while supporting the adoption of environmentally friendly alternatives such as crushed rock, recycled demolition materials and ore-sand from mine tailings. It further advocates for a circular economy for sand, which includes prohibiting the disposal of mineral waste in landfills and supporting the reuse of sand in public procurement contracts.
A revamping of obsolete policy, legal and institutional frameworks was key to improving governance in the management of sand, says the report, adding that enhanced mapping and monitoring of the resource was key to minimising its over-exploitation.
The above article has been published from a wire source with minimal modifications to the headline and text.