UN takes stand on sand

UN takes stand on sand

All countries should be aware that their development is at stake unless they take better care of their precious resource sand, the United Nations has warned in a new report on the environment.

The UN Environment Programme (UNEP) has just released its report, Sand and Sustainability: 10 Strategic Recommendations to Avert a Crisis, to make it clear that “the world cannot continue to keep taking 50 billion tonnes of sand and gravel out of the ground and sea every year without serious consequences”.

After water, sand is the most used resource globally, and UNEP report programme coordinator, Pascal Peduzzi, warned that sand as a resource is not infinite.

“To achieve sustainable development, we need to drastically change the way we produce, build and consume products, infrastructures and service,” he said.

Given humanity’s dependency on it, sand must be recognised as a strategic resource, according to the UN report, and its extraction and use needs to be rethought. Governments, industries and consumers should price sand in a way that recognises its true social and environmental value.

The UN acknowledged that sand is an essential element in producing concrete for vital infrastructure and that it is critical to economic development but it said the resource is being used faster than it can be naturally replenished, making its responsible management “crucial”.

The UNEP has proposed that an international standard be developed on how sand is extracted from the marine environment and recommends banning sand extraction from beaches. It also supports the notion of sand to be reused in public procurement contracts and to move towards a circular economy for sand.

“For sand to be more effectively government and best practices implemented, new institutional and legal structures are needed,” the UN stated.

“[It] must be recognised as more than a construction material, but as a strategic resource with multiple roles in the environment.”

UNEP went on to say that sand resources need to be mapped, monitored and reported on, and management decisions to be place-specific and avoid one-size-fits-all solutions.

About the author

Desi Corbett

Desi is the Editor of Concrete in Australia and at the helm of our magazine for 8 years. She was behind the Institute's weekly news bulletins from 2016-2021 and is now writing our focused news items. Desi has been an engineering news and features journalist/editor across all disciplines since 2013 - part of a 30-year career writing for a wide range of industries.