UN launches tool to monitor exploitation of 'gigantic' volumes of sand

It is the most used resource after water. And like water, its future raises questions. Is sand threatened by overexploitation? That is what the United Nations believes. It is launching a platform to better document sand extraction in the oceans. An activity that threatens not only entire ecosystems, but also our own way of life.

Sand mining and transportation in Allahabad, India, an emerging power that builds a lot, here in October 2007. AP - Rajesh Kumar Singh

By: RFI Follow


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With our correspondent in Geneva, Jérémie Lanche

50 billion tons of sand are drawn from the environment every year. The extraction of this material has reached "gigantic" proportions. But this colossal figure is entirely proportional to the place this resource has taken in our lives, explains Pascal Peduzzi of the United Nations Environment Programme: "Your schools, your hospitals, your roads, hydroelectric dams, wind turbines, solar panels, glass... In fact, our entire society depends on sand as a building material.


Just over 10% of man-made sand comes from the oceans. China, the United States, but also Belgium and the Netherlands are among the countries that have the most extractor ships, a kind of giant large vacuum cleaners that scrape the bottom of the sea in search of sediment. With the consequences that we imagine for the environment. And for the safeguarding of the resource that could very quickly fail: "Belgium has already seen that it has 80 years of volume of sand available and extraction as it does now. We are going to need it a lot to protect against rising sea levels. So it's going to be a very interesting material for climate change adaptation.


In the absence of international regulations on sand trade and mining, the United Nations has developed a platform to track extracting vessels. To be able to better assess available stocks. And also, point the finger at bad practices.

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Read on on the same topics:

  • Oceans
  • Environment