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The topic that was chosen for this individual report is form the topic of Biodiversity and ecosystem loss. More specifically about the loss of sand. To investigate more about this topic a question had to be asked. The question for the topic is “How the sand mining can affect the areas and communities near coastal areas and rivers?”
When being asked “What are the 3 most used natural resources?” people would most likely answer air, water and oil. But most people would be wrong as the first two answers are correct but the latter isn’t. Most people don’t realize this but sand is the third most used natural resource in the world. They don’t realize that sand is the third most used natural resource because they do not know what sand could be used for. People might not realize this but sand is finite, meaning that there is a limited supply of it in the world. Sand is used in food, wine, toothpaste, glass, computer chips, paper, paint and concrete. Out of all these things, sand is the most used when it comes to concrete. Concrete is made of ten percent cement, fifteen percent water and seventy-five percent sand.
Concrete is getting used more by the year as now countries plan on making more buildings to house their overpopulated citizens. China is the main player in concrete production by having to make 2,500 metric tons every year. But China doesn’t only use its sand to make concrete but also, they are using tons of sand to build up islands in the South China Sea to expand their territory even further.
Most people in the sand industry get their sand from big boats that lie near the shore that sucks up sand using a big suction pump. The main problem to this is that the ocean floor isn’t made miles of sand deep. Sand is just a thin layer that covers a huge layer of rocks. So if at one point this we finish mining this thin layer of sand the only thing we will be left with are huge chunks of rocks. This layer of sand is also home to many microorganisms that are the base of the food chain. This means that the more sand we mine near the shore the more likely fishes will move away from the area as they do not have anything to feed on anymore.
As most of you know in the dessert is full of sand but this type of sand cannot be used as the grains of sand can be described as round due to wind erosion. The type of sand used in concrete and all the other things are the ones you get from beaches, the bottom of rivers and oceans. The grains in these sands have sharp edges meaning that they can interlock with one another easily. Other sands could be used to make concrete but two things will happen. Either the concrete will become weaker as it won’t be as durable or as strong as it can be. This is why most of the concrete that we use are made out of marine sand.
Due to the importance of sand to the world, there has been a rise in the black market for it. This illegal sand business generates 2.3 billion dollars annually. The people who get the sand are usually people who are struggling to survive. These people risk their lives just to barely earn money. In one day, they can dive up to 200 times a day just to earn $15 for a boat load of sand. Many suffer from bleeding ears and headaches due to decompression.
Sand is a quite common product for people to mine on because of two factors. The first factor is that sand is really cheap to extract as you don’t need expensive equipment to get it, someone can extract sand just by using their hands. The second factor is that the demand for sand is increasing by the minute. As more sand gets used, the less of it there is in the world. The less sand there is in the world the higher the price is for sand.
As time goes on, sand will get more valuable and the price will increase. The cause of this is due to sand being used faster than the earth can naturally produce it. The time it takes for sand to form varies. It can form over thousands of years through wind, rain, river currents, etc. or it may even take 15 seconds in a crushing mill, but in this way the sand won’t be as fine as the sand that has naturally formed. These crushing mills can also be expensive to do, this is the main reason why we don’t get most of our sands from crushing mills as it can decrease the profit you get at the end.
Sand mining usually happens in riverbeds or beaches as that is where the best quality of sand come from. To extract these sands people would bring in big excavation machine to extract the sand faster with little effort, then they would use big trucks to transport the sand around. The water quality around this area could change due to the dumping of excess mining material and oil spills from the vehicles. This can make the water to have a murky color and also for it to have some king precipitate. This change in quality can affect the underwater ecosystem, the polluted water can kill of different organisms directly forcing their species to migrate out of the area. Animals and people who get their water source from the area would also be affected as the water will not be pure anymore and it will have a lot of bacteria and germs that can cause these animals and people to fall ill. The change in water quality can also affect plants growth as plants need an optimal pH water level to grow. The change in water quality can also change the water’s pH level making it harder for the plants to photosynthesize.
Sand mining can also alter riverbeds and riverbanks. When mining the easiest way to get the sand is from the riverbanks, as it is not covered by a lot of water when being compared with the riverbeds. The banks of the river could lose its sustainability if enough sand is mined. This sustainability loss of the riverbanks can mean two things. One is that the stream would get wider causing the area around it to get smaller. And the second thing is that species that live in that area would migrate away. These species have lived in that area for thousands of years adapting to it. But after humans began large-scale alterations these fishes cannot adapt to the change that humans had bring in the course of a couple days. These large-scale alterations also destroys habitats, making the river no longer habitable for many organisms. Fishes are more likely to live in a river that has a more stable channel that an unstable one.
Indonesia is the largest archipelago in the world meaning that it also has the most accessible area to get sand. Indonesia is not a stranger to illegal sand mining as there are many cases of it happening in the country. Areas such as Raja Ampat are a conservatory and this word is not taken lightly in this area as it has coast guards in every island. They intend on keeping its beautiful biodiversity intact so they limit the things tourists can do to ensure that they do not destroy the corals and fishes.
There have been cases where locals are protesting against sand mining in the area. Even though this sand mining is legal, people are still protesting. The most of the people protesting are fisherman and they had put a hold on the sand mining as they worry that it would cause damage to fish stocks. They had also said that it is unfair for sand miners to bring in industrial-sized equipment to help them mine legally and for fishermen to be penalized if they are caught to be doing the practice of dynamite fishing. The mining of the sand had to been done locally as transporting sand around can be expensive. They had mined the sand there as they wanted to build a man-made island in the coast of Makassar. This island would be name “Centre Point of Indonesia” it would be built in the shape of the ‘Garuda’ bird. This case had happened in Makassar in 2017.
The problem with sand mining is that it affects the area around the sand mining area. In beaches if the place is mined often it can cause the beach line to recede even further. The receding of the beach line is caused by the uneven ground due to sand mining. The ground evens itself out so it is inevitable for this to happen. Since people usually mine the sand near the coast this means house near the beaches are even more likely to flood as the receding beach line means that the sea water gets closer. This also makes the ground around the area to become even softer due to water getting so close to the surface. This erosion can affect the things that have been built above it as now the ground is not as hard as it was before. This was displayed in the recent Houston flooding. Sand mining had caused this flood to have been worse. The sand mining in the San Jacinto river had caused this to happen as it is an excellent source of sand. This river had been mined heavily for sand in the past few decades.
Sand mining not only affects area near beaches but also area near rivers. When sand is mined in rivers similar effects happen. The more sand mined from the river the wider its channel becomes and the more likely for the ground around it to be eroded. This sand mining could also destroy habitats as in rivers it is more likely to have more species living in the rivers.
In my opinion, the most reasonable solution for this problem is to either limit how much sand one can take in one go, restrict the use of marine sand entirely or even to keep track on the sand sold to one another. If there is a limit on how much sand one can take, people would now not rely on marine sand to create concrete, glass, computer chips and etc. Since these things are like a necessity for everyone, I’m sure that people would find other ways to make these things. The restriction in marine sand would mean that people would either use sand in the dessert or they would create their own sand using crushing mills. Tracking the selling of sand could also mean the decrease in ‘sand mafias’ as they would know that if they do go over the limit they would be penalized. In might be a huge step but if this is all done we might be able to prevent the loss of our sand entirely. If we don’t take some kind of action on this problem we might run out of sand in the next 50 years.
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