Thursday, 18 May 2017

Whilst there may be no shortage of sand in Devon...

... elsewhere in the world it’s a different story, reports The Economist:
A “sand mafia” in India intimidates locals in order to extract and transport the material. In Morocco and the Caribbean, thieves are stripping beaches bare. Even though fully accounting for illegally mined sand is not possible, sand is easily the most mined material in the world. According to the UN Environment Programme (UNEP), sand and gravel account for up to 85% of everything mined globally each year.
But why is there a shortage, when sand seems so abundant? Desert sand is too smooth, and so cannot be used for most commercial purposes. In any case, the proximity of sand to construction sites is generally important too: because sand is relatively cheap, it tends to be uneconomical to transport across long distances… existing deposits are being mined more quickly than they can be naturally replenished, which is damaging the environment. Dredging causes pollution and harms local biodiversity. Thinning coastlines affect beaches’ capacity to absorb stormy weather.
Fortunately, there are substitutes for sand: asphalt and concrete can be recycled, houses can be built with straw and wood, and mud can be used for reclamation. In rich countries, government policy will encourage a shift towards such substitutes. According to Britain’s Mineral Products Association, for example, nearly a third of all housing material used in Britain in 2014 was recycled.