The United Nations (UN) has raised a significant concern about the global extraction of sand from our oceans, a practice that annually removes approximately six billion metric tonnes of this essential resource. This alarming rate of sand dredging poses severe threats to marine ecosystems and coastal communities, ranking second only to water in terms of natural resource exploitation. Sand is a pivotal component in the production of concrete and glass, underscoring its fundamental role in various industries.
The “UN Environment Programme (UNEP)” has revealed that certain vessels engaged in sand dredging essentially function as “vacuum cleaners,” indiscriminately extracting both sand and crucial microorganisms that serve as food sources for fish. Consequently, this reckless activity jeopardises the possibility of life recovery in the affected regions.
To address this pressing issue, the UNEP has introduced a groundbreaking tool called Marine Sand Watch. This innovative platform employs marine tracking and artificial intelligence to monitor and assess dredging activities comprehensively. Pascal Peduzzi, the head of UNEP’s analytics centre, GRID-Geneva, emphasises the disconcerting scale of environmental damage resulting from shallow sea mining and dredging activities.
Marine Sand Watch estimates that out of the approximately 50 billion metric tonnes of sand and gravel utilised by humanity annually, a staggering six billion metric tonnes originate from the world’s oceans and seas. This quantity equates to the daily deployment of “more than one million dump trucks. Peduzzi firmly asserts that such practices are unsustainable, with large vessels effectively sterilising the seabed by extracting sand and disrupting vital microorganisms.
In light of these revelations, the UNEP strongly recommends implementing bans on sand dredging from beaches to safeguard coastal resilience and local economies. While sand is indispensable for the construction of infrastructure such as buildings, roads, dams, and solar panels, it also plays a critical role in protecting communities from rising sea levels.
The report highlights specific regions like the South China Sea, the North Sea, and the US East Coast as areas where extensive dredging activities have transpired. Urgent action is imperative to address this global issue and ensure the preservation of marine ecosystems and the well-being of coastal communities.