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Running out of time: New UN report tackles sand shortage

The UN has provided 10 recommendations to manage an impending sand shortage

The UN has provided 10 recommendations to manage an impending sand shortage, including recognising sand as a strategic resource and sourcing it responsibly. 

The extraction, sourcing, use and management of sand has remained largely ungoverned, despite its strategic importance.

To combat this, the UN wants to bring attention to these impacts and has put forward 10 recommendations to address the sustainability and environmental needs in its report Sand and Sustainability: 10 Strategic Recommendations to Avert a Crisis.

“I encourage all stakeholders, including governments, industry and civil society to take this opportunity and start the necessary transformations in our institutions, businesses, and societies in how we manage and use sand,” UN Environment Program director Sheila Aggarwal-Khan said.

The world uses 50 billion tonnes of sand a year, making it the second most used resource worldwide after water.

The UN hopes that the report will encourage conversation around the necessary guidance gathered from experts to switch to improved practices.

“To achieve sustainable development, we need to drastically change the way we produce, build, and consume products, infrastructures, and services. Our sand resources are not infinite, and we need to use them wisely,” director of GRID-Geneva at UNEP Pascal Peduzzi said.

Sand is currently being used at a faster rate than it can be naturally replenished, making responsible management crucial.

Among the viable alternatives to sand that the report promotes is crushed rock or recycled construction and demolition material.

Switching to these alternatives would move towards a circular economy for sand.

New institutional and legal structures are needed for sand to be governed more effectively and best practices should be shared and implemented.

The report puts the responsibility of managing sand as a resource in the stakeholder’s hands, stressing that a one-size-fits-all scenario should be avoided.

“If we can get a grip on how to manage the most extracted solid material in the world, we can avert a crisis and move toward a circular economy,” Peduzzi said.

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