Multi-faceted impact of river sand mining on the environment

If the current growth rate in demand for construction sand continues, global resources may be exhausted by 2050. After water, it is the second most frequently used natural resource by humans. Construction sand is extracted, often illegally, from former and current aquatic environments such as rivers, lakes and their shores, resulting in multi-faceted environmental degradation. Currently, the world uses approximately 50 billion tons of sand per year. To build a house, you need about 200 tons of sand, 30,000 tons per kilometre of highway and 12 million tons of sand for a nuclear power plant.

In the area exploited during sand mining, biodiversity is decreasing. From aquatic and coastal flora and fauna to the entire catchment area are decreasing, water quality, access to it, air and soil quality are decreasing, the bed and course of the river are lowering and changing, and its banks are eroding. Sand mining also affects riverside towns and agriculture as the groundwater system changes. 

Excessive sand extraction from river beds threatens the stability of bridges and structures such as pipelines. An example of the adverse effects of sand mining is the Chambal River in India. India and China extract the most construction sand in the world at a rate that exceeds the possibilities of natural resource renewal. Are there alternatives to the extraction and use of construction sand? Yes, these include artificial sand and processed aggregate, slag sand, powdered glass, dune sand, quarry dust, sea sand, fly and bottom ash, waste from construction demolition and aluminium processing.

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