A new report says the amount of sand extracted from the Earth- said to be around 50 billion tonnes- is unsustainable and could plunge the planet into crisis if it is not changed
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The world’s next catastrophe could be caused by a shortage of sand according to the United Nations, amid warnings nations need to “drastically reduce” the amount used every year.
A new report says around 50 billion tonnes of the key building material is extracted from the ground and sea every 12 months.
Experts say the amount would be enough to build a giant wall 27 metres wide and 27 metres high around the Earth.
Sheila Aggarwal-Khan, director of the Economy Division United Nations Environment Programme (UNEP), said: “Sand is being used faster than it can be replenished by natural geological processes in some locations, while damage to ecosystems is occurring in others.
“As the global urban population will increase to represent over 68% of the world population by 2050, and as cities expand and urban infrastructure is upgraded, demand for sand will only increase
“We now find ourselves in the position where the needs and expectations of our societies cannot be met without improved governance of sand resources.
“ I encourage all stakeholders, including governments, industry, and civil society to take this opportunity and start the necessary transformations in our institutions, businesses, and societies in how we manage and use sand.
“If we act now, it is still possible to avoid a sand crisis.”
The authors of the Sand and Sustainability: 10 Strategic Recommendations to Avert a Crisis report say it should be recognised as a strategic resource and the levels of extraction should be rethought.
Developers use three times as much sand now as two decades ago, driven by factors such as urbanisation, population growth, economic growth, and climate change.
Extraction of sand from rivers and marine ecosystems can lead to increased erosion, the loss of protection against storm surges and impacts on biodiversity.
As a result the report claims there would be a risk to livelihoods through water supply, food production as well as tourism.
It suggests nations use crushed rock, recycled construction and demolition material as alternatives.
Pascal Peduzzi, director of GRID-Geneva at the UNEP and report programme coordinator, added: “Our sand resources are not infinite, and we need to use them wisely,” said .
“To achieve sustainable development, we need to drastically change the way we produce, build and consume products, infrastructures and services.
“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.”