Sand is becoming the centre of an urgent debate concerning environmental damage to riverbeds across Africa. Sand dredging to make key building materials such as concrete, bricks and glass, are jeopardising coastlines across African countries. According to the BBC, sand is now the second most used natural commodity today, after water.

These have colossal environmental implications, but also impact those who depend on rivers in different ways, including for water. Moreover, a black market in different countries for sand has developed to meet demand, and because trading sand has become a lucrative business. Dredging through transnational industries and black market traders has resulted in riverbeds across the global South being left dry. Consequently, communities who rely on the river, as well as animals such as migratory birds, have been left without access to water and fish.

The issue is gaining global prominence, with Cambodia permanently banning sand exports earlier this year citing serious damage to coastal ecosystems. Environmental activists have encouraged such bans, hoping that it will make a difference and set an example for other countries to follow suit.

With projected population increases across the globe, how will demands for water and resources be met with sand dredging on the rise? Will dredging continue to have negative impacts on local communities and the environment? Are there more sustainable alternatives? These questions should be considered by applicants to Geography, Land Economy and PPE.

More Resources