Sand is the remains of pulverized and weathered rock mixed with shell fragments and other bits and pieces that washed up and left as sediment from a body of water. Because of that sand is unique to Where You Find It, its composition depends on the rocks and minerals in that part of the world, some of which are sturdy and last longer than others.
With populations rising, sand is quickly becoming a hot commodity. Because not all sand is created equal. The fine-grained sand of the Sahara, for example, does not make an appropriate building material. Instead, coarser sand must be mined Usually, from the banks of local rivers and coastlines. This brings a whole host of environmental and human problems, but also makes for a valuable export. You think SAND is everywhere, but it’s NOT.
Modern cities use a lot of sand in construction. The global total for sand mining in 2010 was about 11 billion metric tons. Sand is a globalized commodity, whose trade value has increased sixfold in the last quarter-century. For Sand! Some cities are built on sand-heavy foundations but mostly it’s used to make concrete and asphalt. The nation like Dubai import the right kind of sand for construction even though Dubai is surrounded by desert, desert-sand is not strong enough for concrete. So the necessary sand is imported from Australia.
Cities experiencing incredible growth rates are using a lot of sand. According to estimates, China used more concrete from 2011 to 2014 than the US used through out the entire 20th century and their rate is not slowing down. Because of this booming urbanization, sand mining has increased with some pretty negative consequences.
Sand for construction in Shanghai, sand was originally dredged from the bottom of the Yangtze River. But bridges were damaged, the river bank collapsed and the shipping industry was disrupted so much that dredging the river bottom was banned. Now nearby Lake Poyang is dredged. But it’s not just structural.
Sand dredging is taking a toll on the environment too. Dropping water levels can damage nearby wetlands, destroy the habitat for migratory birds and putting animals that rely on that water source on endangered species lists. Sand extraction in Kenya damaged coral reefs. In India, it’s a threat to rare crocodiles. In Indonesia, sand mining wiped out whole islands.
So, what can we do about this SAND CRISIS?
One solution could be developing new materials with all the properties of sand for use in construction. Another could be to find an alternative to concrete for building.
Whatever the case, this is soon to be something we can’t ignore. Recycling concrete could help, but some might not be able to set up the infrastructure to do that. Finding an alternative to sand is ideal, but difficult, it would be hard to replace something that has been so abundant and cheap until now.
So, next time you are shaking the sand out off your shoes at the beach, remember, this material is important. It’s a natural resource. it’s not renewable. Like a lot of nature, it’s got a lot of value. We are finally recognizing our insane use of the sand as a problem and that is the first step to find a solution.