The pace of urban growth in the world today is somewhat remarkable. People are flooding in to cities, and they are growing at an incredible rate – especially in the developing world. This has resulted in a growth boom, as these cities struggle to contain their burgeoning population. And concrete has become a key building material in these cities.
The increase in growth in these urban areas has meant that added pressure has been put upon resources that feed this growth. And one of the most important of these is also one of the most unexpected, and underappreciated. Sand has recently become one of the most commonly excavated substances globally, and its ubiquitous use has made it increasingly rare and subject to overuse.
This rarity is surprisingly, but less so when one becomes aware of the variety of its applications. It is used in concrete product, shoreline and beach erosion treatments, construction projects worldwide, and as a landscaping tool. As common as it is on your local beach, its uses are equally common.
However, the excavation of sand is not well regulated, and unregulated sand mining has had some serious environment consequences. In some areas, such as the Mekong delta, populations of freshwater dolphins and birds have struggled to cope with the increased turbidity of the water, and the change to underwater landscapes and nursery areas.
Elsewhere, illegal operations have meant that shorelines and beaches have eroded, causing problems for local residents who are left to deal with the problems that result. As sand continues to be important to the construction industry, we must begin to treat it as the commodity that it is, and regulate it properly.
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