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Tuesday, March 5, 2024

Sand dredging devastating ocean floor, UN warns

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In a recent report that calls for immediate attention. The UN Environment Programme (UNEP) has warned that the annual dredging of around six billion tonnes of sand from the ocean is posing a severe threat to both marine life and coastal communities.

Sand, often overlooked as a simple raw material, stands second only to water as the world’s most exploited natural resource. It plays a vital role in the manufacturing of concrete and glass, two essential materials that underpin our contemporary lifestyle. But this convenience comes at a heavy price, warns UNEP.

Certain vessels involved in sand extraction function like enormous vacuum cleaners. Sucking up not just sand but also the micro organisms vital for sustaining fish populations. Pascal Peduzzi, the head of UNEP’s GRID-Geneva analytics center, emphasized the urgent need to allow marine environments time to recover. He highlighted that these practices are leading to the sterilization of seabeds. Thereby eradicating essential micro organisms and potentially causing irreversible damage in some regions.

In conjunction with the report, UNEP introduced the Marine Sand Watch tool. A tech marvel that combines marine tracking and Artificial Intelligence. According to this tool, of the 50 billion tonnes of sand and gravel used globally each year, roughly six billion tonnes are dredged from the ocean on a daily basis, equivalent to over one million dump trucks.

UNEP’s findings identified the South China Sea, the North Sea, and the US East Coast as the regions most ravaged by these dredging activities. In light of this, UNEP has recommended banning beach sand dredging to protect coastal resilience and economies, particularly in these regions.

Although sand is unquestionably essential for construction and as a protective measure against rising sea levels. It is imperative that we seek sustainable approaches that do not jeopardize the well-being of our marine ecosystems and coastal communities. The ocean floors might be out of our sight, but they should not be out of our minds.

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