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Representative image

The earth is running out of sand: study

ANI | Updated: Jul 06, 2019 19:39 IST

Washington D.C. [USA], July 6 (ANI): The importance of sand in the developing world cannot be neglected. We need it to build the houses we live in, make glasses we drink from and to create computers we work on, and yet it is being extracted faster than it can be replaced, say researchers.
In a study published in the journal of Nature, a group of scientists highlighted the urgent need for a global agenda for sand, which is our most overlooked natural resource.
Rapid urbanisation and global population growth have fuelled the demand for sand and gravel, with between 32 and 50 billion tons extracted globally each year.
"From 2000-2100 it is projected there will be a 300 per cent increase in sand demand and a 400 per cent increase in prices. We urgently require a monitoring programme to address the current data and knowledge gap, and thus fully assess the magnitude of sand scarcity. It is up to the scientific community, governments, and policymakers to take the steps needed to make this happen," said Mette Bendixen, one of the researchers of the study.
A lack of oversight and monitoring is leading to unsustainable exploitation, planning, and trade. Removal of sand from rivers and beaches has far-reaching impacts on ecology, infrastructure, national economies and the livelihoods of the 3 billion people who live along the world's river corridors.
Illegal sand mining has been documented in 70 countries across the globe, and battles over sand have reportedly killed hundreds in recent years, including local citizens, police officers, and government officials.
"Politically and socially, we must ask: If we can send probes to the depths of the oceans or the furthest regions of the solar system, is it too much to expect that we possess a reliable understanding of sand mining in the world's great rivers, and on which so much of the world's human population, rely? Now is the time to commit to gaining such knowledge by fully grasping and utilizing the new techniques that are at our disposal" said Jim Best, another researcher of the study.
In order to move towards globally sustainable sand extraction, the authors argue that we must fully understand the occurrence of sustainable sources and reduce current extraction rates and sand needs, by recycling concrete and developing an alternative to sand (such as crushed rocks or plastic waste materials). This will rely on knowledge of the location and extent of sand mining, as well as the natural variations in sand flux in the world's rivers.
"The fact that sand is such a fundamental component of modern society, and yet we have no clear idea of how much sand we remove from our rivers every year, or even how much sand is naturally available, makes ensuring this industry is sustainable very, very difficult. It's time that sand was given the same focus on the world stage as other global commodities such as oil, gas and precious metals" said Chris Hackney, fellow researcher.
"The issue of sand scarcity cannot be studied in geographical isolation as it has worldwide implications. The reality and size of the problem must be acknowledged and action must be taken on a global stage. In a rapidly changing world, we cannot afford blind spots," concluded Lars L. Iversen, one of the researchers. (ANI)