The new war on the planet for sand: Why it’s so valuable

Increased demand and the black market

A very interesting BBC report explains why sand is valuable, sold on the black market and has triggered explosions of violence lately. And we may all have in mind that sand is literally everywhere, but most of it is useless the human. But it’s not just what is impressive about sand. This is because man uses the sand almost everywhere. That is why there are increasing incidents of violence on the sand. A South African businessman was set on fire last September. Two villagers in India were killed in a shootout in August and a Mexican environmental activist was killed in June. Even those deaths occurred in places hundreds of miles away have the same cause. They belong to the latest wave of violence fueling the battle for one of the most important products of our century: plain sand. Sand after water is the second natural resource most often consumed by humans.

It is used almost everywhere

According to a BBC report, however weird it may seem, sand is a crucial ingredient in our daily lives. It is one of the basic materials used for cement and the construction of modern big cities.

Buildings, offices and houses are made of sand. The roads are the same, as the asphalt contains large amounts of sand. The glass from the windows of houses and even the screen of smartphones is made of sand. The planet is full of sand found in vast deserts from the Sahara to Arizona and beaches from Europe to China. However, the planet cannot meet human needs in the sand. The problem is the kind of sand people use.

Desert sand is largely useless. Most of the sand we need for concrete has to be of a certain size and the desert sand has the wrong shape. Its granules are very smooth and rounded to form a firm concrete.

Each year, the planet needs about 50 billion tonnes of sand and gravel, and to find that amount will have to have huge impacts on the environment.

Demand is increasing. The demand for this sand is so high on the planet that entire banks and beaches are left without sand. With the population of the planet increasing year by year the need to build houses and cities is becoming more and more imperative and so is the demand for sand. In India, for example, the demand for sand in construction has tripled since 2000.

China has used more sand in the last decade than the US did throughout the 20th century. The need is so great that even though Dubai is close to a desert it is forced to import sand from Australia.In Laos and Cambodia where large sand exports are made, environmental organizations warn that their rivers and ecosystems are ready to run out large quantities removing tens of workers daily.

Sold on the black market. However, demand is not only covered by legitimate exports when one looks at the luxurious artificial islands created around the world that require large quantities of sand or mobile screens. In Latin America and Africa organized gangs sell sand on the black market. According to the BBC, human rights organizations complain that the circuits even use children as slaves to collect sand.

Blood scattered on the precious sand grains. Last June, environmental activist Jose Luis Alvarez Flores, who was leading a campaign against illegal sand exports to Mexico, was assassinated.

His performers left a threatening note for his family and other activists. Two months later, Indian police tried to stop trucks carrying illegal sand. Two of the workers were killed in the shootout and two policemen were injured. Environmental organizations are sounding the danger to the environment and people from this situation. Geographer Mitt Bentixen is one of a growing number of scientists calling on the United Nations and the World Trade Organization to intervene and create monitoring programs and rules for the sand market.