China is hungry for the gold beneath the surface

Facts: Unep’s sand report

Today’s use and extraction of sand must change to achieve a more sustainable development. Human consumption and the way we build must also fundamentally change. This is stated by the UN Environment Program in a report published on April 26 this year.

The exploitation of sandy beaches should be completely banned, according to a proposal in the report. New legislation is needed to make the extraction of sand a better regulated activity, state the report authors.

More measures are also required to find alternative solutions and the recycling of sand must increase, in order to protect and make better use of the earth’s sand resources.

Källa: Sand and sustainability: 10 strategic recommendations to avert a crisis, Unep.

The dredgers circle like hungry sharks around the Matsu Islands, which lie in the waters between Taiwan and China. The islands belong to Taiwan, but the fact that they are in Taiwanese territory has not stopped Chinese companies, with Beijing’s good memory, from illegally mining sand in the area around the islands at an ever-increasing pace.

— I’m not a bit surprised. It’s just another stage in China’s harassment of Taiwan, says China expert Kristina Sandklef to TT.

China’s repeated violations have meant that Taiwan has seen itself forced to invest in new frigates and other ships to be able to better protect itself at sea, writes Foreign Policy.

“What is going on is an example of gray zone warfare where China supplies itself with the raw material sand and also forces Taiwan to invest large resources and energy in its defense and coast guard,” says Kristina Sandklef, independent China analyst who has previously worked at the Swedish Armed Forces with a focus on China.

The sand turns to gold

After water, sand is the most desirable natural resource in the world.

Sand is included in concrete, glass and asphalt and is used to build skyscrapers, roads and other infrastructure. The point is that not just any sand will do. The vast sand dunes of the Sahara consist of far too soft and fine-grained sand. It is the sand that is under the water’s surface that is in demand.

Unbridled exploitation of sand is also taking place within China, which has resulted in extensive environmental destruction. Already in 2008, the Chinese authorities tried to stop sand extraction in the large freshwater lake Poyang, without success. Now the important water source is destroyed, writes Foreign Policy. Chinese scientists have also warned that the Yangtze River itself – China’s and all of Asia’s largest river – may be in danger.

— It illustrates what is the big problem with governing a country like China. The central board can decide on one thing, while the regional board runs its own race, says Kristina Sandklef.

And when such large financial interests are at stake, it not infrequently leads to bribery and corruption at the local level in order to continue conducting an activity that is actually prohibited.

China expert Kristina Sandklef.

Indonesian islands were wiped out

But like other natural resources, sand is a finite resource that we should handle carefully, warn scientists in a report published in April by the UN environmental program Unep.

Sand mining has already caused permanent damage to nature around the world. The examples are many. After many years of sand extraction, at least twenty Indonesian islands are a thing of the past. And in Mozambique, several once beautiful and pristine beaches have been completely eroded, making the country more vulnerable to flooding.

A “sand mafia” operates in India. Those who dare to question the mafia are threatened with death, even murdered. This is stated by Kiran Pereira who runs the blog Sandstories, which was started to raise awareness about what the extraction of sand means for our planet. She has seen the environmental destruction with her own eyes during her upbringing in Bangalore.

— I saw this beautiful, thriving garden city literally turn into India’s Silicon Valley. I saw how hundreds of trucks came loaded with sand from the rivers, says Kiran Pereira to TT.

The frustration at what she saw planted the seeds of what would become a deep commitment. Kiran Pereira wants to raise the eyes of the outside world to what is going on.

“Most people probably don’t even know that it’s a big problem,” says Kiran Pereira, who describes the exploitation of sand as “a white spot”.

Kiran Pereira, Sandstory’s founder.

Bio-friendly cement in the Netherlands

However, Kiran Pereira, who now lives in Great Britain, hopes that this spring’s UN report will make a difference. If the issue gets more attention, it also leads to greater vigilance on the part of both politicians and people in general, she reasons.

— Besides, there are already so many options today. Sand that was used once and is now thrown away could be reused.

But the most important thing is that we minimize our consumption and find alternative materials, points out Kiran Pereira. She mentions a Dutch company that manufactures building blocks in an environmentally friendly and more durable cement material, with the help of bacteria.

However, the change work is slow. The innovations and solutions exist, but old regulatory systems and laws stand in the way of development, states Kiran Pereira.

Source: by

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