More valuable than… gold
It is the most sought after natural resource after water, with countless uses: in the manufacture of toothpaste, glass, mobile screens, computer chips, breast implants, cosmetics, paper, paint, plastics, but primarily concrete.
The basic building material – with a composition of 10% cement, 15% water and 75% sand – whose production today exceeds 4 billion tons per year.
Indicatively, a house requires an average of 200 tons of sand , for a hospital 3,000 tonnes and for about 1.5 km of highway 15,000 tonnes. .
But now we use it much faster and insatiably than nature and the planet can produce it.
According to UN estimates, more than 50 billion tonnes of sand and gravel are mined annually. A quantity that corresponds to about 17 kilos per person per day and would be enough to build a wall 27 meters high and 27 meters wide around the Earth.
It is no wonder, then, that the United Nations Environment Program (UNEP) warns in its latest report that the world is in danger of running out of sand today.
But the threat is manifold…
A multiple crisis
The main reason is that the extraction, supply, use and management of sand – a industry over $ 70 billion – remain largely out of control in many parts of the world.
Sand is essential for the proper functioning of entire ecosystems and for supporting biodiversity, including marine plants that act as coal sinks or filter water. lead to soil erosion, loss of natural protection from severe weather events and rising sea levels due to climate change.
In addition, it increases the risk of salinization of aquifers and crops, thus threatening livelihoods: drinking water supply, food production, fisheries, the tourism industry.
“We are now at a point where “The needs and expectations of our societies cannot be met without improved governance of sand resources,” said Sila Agarwal Khan, director of the UNEP Department of Economics.”If we act now,” he says, “it is still possible to avoid a sandstorm.”