As South Africa fends off a water crisis and prepares to face a similar situation in the waste sector, it may have to deal with yet another, as a sand shortage rears its head around the world.  

As the second most extracted natural resource, after water, sand has quickly climbed the list of endangered natural resources with many pointing to the construction industry as the main driver of the global sand shortage.

According to a new report by A.T. Kearney Global Business Policy Council’s Year-Ahead Predictions 2019 urbanisation and infrastructure development are resulting in a global shortage of sand.

“Two-thirds of construction material is concrete, which itself is composed of two-thirds sand,” the report notes.

“To get a sense of scale, China used more sand between 2011 and 2013 than the United States did during the entire 20th century,” the report points out.

Devastating environmental effects

This rising demand for sand is not only having devastating environmental effects, including rapidly intensifying the erosion and degradation of water-based ecosystems around the world but also fuelling price hikes and criminal activity from sand mafias around the world.  

“In India, the construction boom is fueling not only a price spike—with reports of price increases between 100 and 150% in the past two years—but also a sand mafia that has become notorious for violence. There are similar criminal groups operating in Indonesia and elsewhere in Asia,” the report explains.

Turning to sub-Saharan Africa the report notes that the construction sector will face financial strain in 2019 with countries, like Uganda, exhausting local sand supplies and turning to imports to fulfill construction obligations.

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