Home » Raises Alarm on Environmental Risks of Sand Dredging

Raises Alarm on Environmental Risks of Sand Dredging

by Ikeoluwa Ogungbangbe

New data from the UN Environment Programme’s (UNEP) Centre for Analytics underscores sand as the second most consumed natural resource after water. Sand’s versatility lends to its high demand—it’s pivotal in creating concrete, glass, and advanced tech components, such as solar panels.

The UNEP’s Marine Sand Watch data points to a surging rate of sand dredging, alarmingly close to nature’s restorative pace of 10–16 billion tonnes yearly.

Globally, estimates suggest an annual consumption of about 50 billion tonnes of sand and gravel. Notably, six billion tonnes of this amount originate from the world’s oceans and seas.

Sand dredging’s aftermath goes beyond environmental degradation—it imperils biodiversity and coastal communities. With the looming threats of heightened sea levels and extreme weather conditions, coastal regions will need sand to fortify their defenses.

Furthermore, the offshore energy sector, especially wind and wave turbine constructions, hinges on adequate sand levels, per UNEP.

Pascal Peduzzi, the head of GRID-Geneva—a collaborative effort between UNEP, Switzerland’s Federal Office for the Environment, and the University of Geneva—warned of the environmental toll of shallow sea mining and dredging. He emphasized the pronounced effects on biodiversity, water clarity, and the disruption marine mammals face due to noise pollution.

He asserted, “These findings underscore an imminent need for enhanced marine sand resource management and mitigation of shallow sea mining repercussions.”

In response to the growing concern, UNEP urges the sand mining sector to perceive sand as a “strategic asset.” They advocate for a global dialogue to elevate dredging standards and propose bans in specific protected coastal zones.

Recent studies shed light on the mechanistic approach of sand dredging vessels—comparable to vacuum cleaners—siphoning sand and the critical microorganisms that sustain aquatic life. Areas witnessing rampant dredging activities include the South China Sea, the North Sea, and the US East Coast.

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