UN: Sand Dredging is Destroying Sea Floor

    UN: Sand Dredging is Destroying Sea Floor
    Last updated Sep 06, 2023
    Image credit: Wikimedia Commons


    • According to a new report published by the United Nations Environment Program (UNEP) on Tuesday, about 6B tons of sand is dredged from the world's oceans every year, making sand the world's second most widely used natural resource, following closely behind water.
    • Previously, the UN called for a ban on beach extraction to avoid what it called a "sand crisis" as demand for sand surged to 50B tonnes a year. Sand is essential for making glass, concrete, and other construction materials.
    • The latest warning comes with the launch of the UNEP's Marine Sand Watch — a data platform jointly funded by the Swiss government that uses artificial intelligence to track and monitor sand dredging activities.
    • Pascal Peduzzi, director of the UNEP's analytics center GRID-Geneva, further warned that the dredging of sand — crucial to maintaining the structure and function of coastal and marine ecosystems — is growing well beyond the rate at which it's being replenished from rivers in some areas.
    • The "hotspots" for sand dredging identified by Marine Sand Watch, using data from 2012-19, include the North Sea, southeast Asia, and the US' east coast.
    • Meanwhile, the report found that China, the US, the Netherlands, and Belgium have some of the world's most active and advanced dredging industries.


    Narrative A

    Sand dredging is the world's most profitable industry, responsible for 85% of all mineral extraction. Soaring demand for construction, population growth, and urbanization means the activity is potentially destructive to the marine environment and biodiversity. The world must better manage marine sand resources to reduce the impacts of shallow sea mining.

    Narrative B

    Sand extraction is necessary to keep global sea transportation channels and ports safe for navigation. Most countries, especially the US, ensure that dredging operations are timely and cost-effective and meet and exceed all environmental protection laws. Pressuring the industry is unfair as most sand dredging activities are pursued with due regard for sustainability.

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