The UN warns of the destructive impact of sand dredging on ocean floorsafter raising an alarm over the excessive extraction of approximately six billion tons of sand from the world's oceans annually. Sand ranks as the second most exploited natural resource globally, following water, and is a crucial ingredient in the production of concrete and glass.
According to the UN Environment Programme (UNEP), certain vessels are akin to "vacuum cleaners," indiscriminately dredging both sand and essential microorganisms that serve as food for fish. This unrestrained activity has the potential to cause irreparable damage in some regions, where the balance of marine life may never fully recover.
In tandem with this revelation, a new analytical tool named Marine Sand Watch has been launched. It employs marine tracking technology and artificial intelligence to monitor and assess dredging operations, providing valuable insights into the environmental impact of these activities.
The scale of environmental impacts of shallow sea mining activities and dredging is alarming.- Pascal Peduzzi, who heads UNEP's analytics center GRID-Geneva
The recently introduced platform calculates that out of the approximately 50 billion tonnes of sand and gravel consumed annually worldwide, an average of six billion tonnes is sourced from the Earth's oceans and seas. To put this into perspective, it equates to the removal of "more than one million dump trucks every day," as noted by Mr. Peduzzi.
Emphasizing the urgency of the situation, Mr. Peduzzi stressed the need to allow the marine environment to undergo a recovery process, stating that the current extraction levels are unsustainable. He also raised concerns about the detrimental impact of large vessels, explaining that they essentially deplete the ocean floor by extracting sand while simultaneously disrupting the microorganisms that serve as vital sustenance for fish populations.
Mr. Peduzzi further highlighted that in certain cases, sand extraction goes all the way down to the bedrock, posing a grave threat to marine ecosystems, potentially leading to irreparable damage.
The UN Environment Programme (UNEP) has put forth a recommendation to prohibit sand dredging on beaches as a measure to safeguard coastal resilience and protect local economies.
Sand serves as a critical resource in the construction of buildings, roads, hydroelectric dams, and solar panels. It also carries environmental significance by acting as a natural barrier against rising sea levels, offering protection to communities in vulnerable coastal areas.
According to the report, the South China Sea, the North Sea, and the eastern coast of the United States are some of the regions where extensive dredging activities have been recorded.