The United Nations warns that dredging sand is “sterilizing” the ocean floor

GENEVA, Sept 5 (Reuters) – About six billion tons of marine sand are extracted each year in a growing practice that a United Nations agency says is unsustainable and could irreversibly wipe out local marine life.

Sand is the world’s most exploited natural resource after water, but extracting it for use in industries such as construction is subject to only loose regulations, prompting the United Nations to pass a draft law. Accuracy Last year to promote more sustainable mining.

UNEP’s findings coincide with the launch of a new platform “Marine sand monitoring” Backed by funding from the Swiss government, it monitors dredging activities using marine tracking and artificial intelligence.

“The amount of sand we are withdrawing from the environment is significant and has a significant impact,” Pascal Peduzzi of the United Nations Environment Programme, told a press conference in Geneva.

Pointing to a photo of a ship he described as a “giant vacuum cleaner,” he said such ships “essentially sterilize the seabed by extracting sand and crushing all the microorganisms that feed the fish.”

In some cases, companies remove all the sand from the foundation, meaning “life may never recover,” Peduzzi added.

The United Nations Environment Program said that while the $6 billion extracted globally is less than the sand that accumulates annually in the world’s rivers, in some areas removal exceeds renewal rates.

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The South China Sea, the North Sea and the East Coast of the United States are among the areas where the most dredging has occurred, said Arnaud Vander Velpen, a sand industry and data analysis officer at the University of Geneva.

He added that China, the Netherlands, the United States and Belgium are among the most active countries in this sector.

Reporting by Emma Farge Editing by Christina Fincher

Our standards: Thomson Reuters Trust Principles.

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