Dr Hackney warns that without proper regulation, sand mining could have increasing environmental and social consequences.
“Local communities have started to realise the impact mining can have and there has been a lot more awareness from communities on the riverbank, who have begun to associate sand mining and the banks collapsing. Residents say they look for cracks extending from the banks – if they see the cracks starting to form, they don’t go in the houses.”
Dr Hackney, says greater regulation of the industry is needed to avoid these consequences.
“We need sand – we can’t get away from that,” he said. “But there has to be a realisation that the impacts of this are much graver than we think. There needs to be wholesale changes in the ways we mine and use sand. Oil and gas have really well regulated, governed and monitored frameworks, which sand doesn’t have. We need similar systems for regulating sand.
“We need to also start thinking about ways we can reduce sand use.”
Dr Hackney says alternative materials and alternative designs that limit the use of concrete or glass as well as reusing sand from demolition, as was done in the construction of the new Tottenham Hotspur stadium, rather than throwing it into landfill.
He said: “We also need to look at ways we can start using other forms of sand, like desert sand, which can’t be used in construction because it is too round and smooth, but there are ways in which we can make it more useful, which would then relieve some of the pressure on sand mining along rivers and coasts.
“Sand mining is not just taking homes, it is taking livelihoods, there’s a knock-on effect. Anywhere you have a river with sand, people will be that taking sand out. We need a global regulatory approach to avoid a sustainability crisis.”
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