Rivers of Sand
We tend to think of rivers as carriers of water, but they are also rivers of sand. And sand is not just sand - sand and gravel is vital to rivers. Without that, floods would rush straight through rivers and create havoc. Sand and gravel in rivers cushion the flood. They also make sure that rivers are well interconnected with the aquifer systems around them. They feed these aquifers during high flows and help them return to the base flow when water is low.
However, this age-old happy marriage is getting disturbed across the world. The insatiable demand for sand—for construction, manufacturing, cosmetics (you name it)-- is only growing.
The most accessible rivers are the ones in greatest danger. The wholesale depletion of sand and gravel deposits in rivers causes floods to peak unabatedly, aquifers to bleed and saline water to intrude into the land. Though many lose, there are a few who win: local sand barons make big money in this profitable trade.
In the video Sand, Water, People, Profit, Kiran Pereira explains how much we use sand and how little we think we do. She explains that sand might be less abundant than we think and how its classification as a ‘low-value resource’ enables the corrupt to mine it indiscriminately and escape attention.
This issue demands much more attention, vigilance and debate than we care to raise at the moment. If you have any experiences/stories to share about sand mining, please post them in the Comments section under the video, or send them to firstname.lastname@example.org