The world is running out of sand

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The developing world is undergoing a building boom. From Vietnam to India to Nigeria, businesses and governments are building roads, airports, skyscrapers and other landmarks of busy economies. Building these things requires concrete. Making concrete requires sand.

Only there’s suddenly not enough sand to go around.


In global markets, sand’s price has risen 40 to 70 percent. Indonesia and some other countries are restricting exports of it. India and Cambodia have been reduced to dredging low-quality sand from riverbeds. Because of the shortage, there’s now a thriving international black market in sand. 

The sand rush, particularly in poor countries, has led to environmental devastation in some areas. Ecosystems have been torn apart to get at sand under fragile bodies of water, wetlands and woods.

TRENDPOST: The lack of this elemental resource will restrict large-scale infrastructure projects, such as China’s Belt and Road Initiative and the United States’ long-awaited revival of interest in shoring up crumbing roads, bridges, sewage systems and other infrastructure necessities. It also challenges governments to protect ecosystems from this new threat, even as environmental groups mobilize around it.