After water, aggregates (sand, gravel and crushed rock) are the second most exploited natural resource in the world and their use has tripled in the last two decades to reach 40-50 billion metric tons per year. Demand for aggregates is growing around the world, driven by factors such as urbanisation, population growth, economic growth, and sea-level rise. The depletion of land-based sand reserves around urban and industrial centres and the shift to the extraction of rivers and the nearshore environment is already an environmental and resource problem that is local yet global given the high number of locations affected. Virtually unknown and invisible but ubiquitous; environmentally impactful at a large scale and yet the issue remains unaddressed and unresolved by States and other major stakeholders. The scale of sand extraction makes it one of the major sustainability challenges of the 21st century.
GRID-Geneva has already contributed to bring awareness regarding the impacts of sand on the environment with its reports Sand, rarer than one thinks (UNEP, 2014) and Sand and sustainability: finding new solutions for environmental governance of global sand resources (UNEP, 2019). This recent report was presented at the United Nations Environment Assembly (UNEA-4) and contributed to the adoption of the resolution on Mineral Resources Governance (UNEP/EA.4/Res.19) by all member states. This resolution requested to collect information on sustainable practices, identify knowledge gaps and options for implementation strategies, and undertake an overview of existing assessments of different governance initiatives and approaches relating to sustainable management of mineral resources. This project intends to address these requests for the sand and gravels resources. It is also relevant to the resolution on Sustainable Infrastructures (UNEP/EA.4/Res.5)
Specifically, this project will improve the monitoring of sand and gravels resources, through the creation of an inventory on sand extraction and tracking resources status, including for marine sand extraction. It will review existing institutions, policies, standards and best practices. Identify and review potential solutions and links with developments strategies. The organisation and participations to conferences and events to bring the awareness on the sand and sustainability issue, focusing solutions and report on these results are also part of this project.