Sand overexploitation generates environmental and political impacts

sand overexploitation

The overexploitation of natural resources generates numerous impacts on the environment and on the governments that manage these resources and the territory. In this case, we are talking about overexploitation of sand.

Sand is an increasingly limited and valuable resource, since it is scarcer due to the high rates of erosion caused by human-induced desertification. This overexploitation generates, in addition to impacts on the environment, economic, political and social impacts. This forces the necessary measures to be adopted towards a sustainable management that regulates its use.

Importance of sand as a resource

Sand from beaches, rivers and seabed plays an important role in ecosystems due to the large number of species it houses and to the protection that it exerts on the coasts of intense atmospheric phenomena, according to an article in the journal Science.

Human beings have been building and altering all natural spaces to urbanize areas and create cities to live in and develop an economic system. This development of urban expansion on a world scale has exerted strong pressure on the demand for sand for being a necessary and key ingredient in the construction industry. Sand is used to form materials such as concrete, asphalt or glass.

In addition, sand is also used in coastal restoration or hydraulic fracturing, which causes its demand to grow as fast as the problems associated with its exploitation.

Overexploitation of sand

sand extraction

This overexploitation affects natural ecosystems in a negative way, since the biodiversity of river beds and coastal areas is damaged. If the ecosystem where animal and plant species live is negatively affected, it also influences the trophic chain, breaking the ecological balance. In addition, the sand deficit has negative effects on the production and obtaining of food for local communities.

An activity that takes place in almost all coastal cities is to transport sand from one beach to another to fill it up. The constructions of the human being on the coast, such as beach bars, ports, docks, etc. They alter the dynamics of the sand and interrupt the constant flow, causing a deficit of it in some areas of the beaches. To alleviate this problem, sand is taken from a more "populated" beach and poured onto the one with a deficit.

However, this activity can facilitate the spread of certain invasive species who see their opportunity there, or lead to the formation of stagnant waters that favor the spread of infectious diseases such as malaria.

One of the most serious problems caused by overexploitation of sand is that it reduces the amount of sediment found both on beaches and in river deltas. If a delta does not have a large amount of sediment, it will be unprotected against the effects of the coasts and climate change such as a rise in sea level or the intensification of storms, whose damage, in turn, increases the demand for sand.

Measures against this situation

excess sand extraction

The investigator of this matter, Aurora Torres placeholder image, points out that measures must be taken to avoid this current situation of overexploitation of this limited and valuable resource.

“It is essential that governments cooperate locally and internationally in its management. Scientists from different disciplines must work from a systematic perspective so that policy makers and society are aware of the scope of this problem and its implications”Says Torres.

Finally, he emphasizes that it is necessary promote the recycling of construction and demolition materials, since they generate millions of tons per year and can save costs if they are recycled, in addition to not occupying land in landfills. The benefits of sand extraction can lead to the emergence of socio-political conflicts, sometimes violent, such as the appearance of sand mafias or tensions between neighboring countries due to trafficking and illegal extraction.


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