Side event details

Reducing the impact of sand mining to conserve the world wetlands
Day and time
07.11.2022 19:45
Lead organization
Partner organization(s)
UNEP, IUCN, Holcim/Lafarge

Around 50 billion tons of sand and gravel is extracted each year, making it the second most used resources after water - and a large part of it comes from teh world's river, lakes, beaches and coastal wetlands.

Sand is critical to our societies and economies as it is the primary raw material for the contruction industry, maing up around 80% of the concrete and asphalt that builds our homes, facotries, roads and other key infrastructure. Substantial quantities are lso swallowed up each year by land reclamation. Sand provides livelihoods within communities and is linked to all 17 Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs).

But sand is also essential for healthy wetlands. It is critical to maintain the structure of rivers and beaches, and the stability and resilience of deltas. By providing habitats and breeding grounds for diverse flora and fauna, sand also plays a vital function in supporting wetland biodiversity.

Extracting unsustainable amounts of sand where it plays an active role, such as rivers, and coastal or marine ecosystes, can lead to erosion, sinking and shrinking of deltas, salination of aquifers, loss of protection against storm surges and impacts on biodiversity, which pose a threat to livelihoods through, among other things, water supply, food production, fisheries, or the tourism industry. As the impacts of climate change intensify, sand will also play an increasingly important role in building resilience.

So mining sand wisely and sustainably will be critical to tackling nature loss and climate change, and driving sustainable development. However, in mnay parts of the world, it is being extracted far faster than it can be naturally replenished, with much of the extraction being unregulated and illegal, And demand is only set to rise.

Despite all this, its extraction, sourcing, use, and management remain largely ungoverned in mnay regions of the world, leading to numerous environmental and social consequences - including contributing to the degradation of the world's wetlands and loss of biodiversity - that have been largely overlooked.

It is time for countries to take steps to ensure sand mining is sustainable - and the Ramsar Convention can help drive this change. There have already been two key resolution at the 4th United Nations Environment Assembly (UNEA) on Mineral resource governance that called for actions on sustainable sand management and at UNEA-5 in the new resolution titled Environmental aspects of minerals and metals management, which was adopted by all member states.

Thi important side session will focus on the recent global report by UNEP, Sand and Sustainability: 10 strategic recommendations to avert a crisis. It highlights the impact of the current state of extraction, use and (mis)management, and details solutions, including using recycled or alternative materials as well as new institutional and legal structures, to reduce the impact of sand mining on wetlands, people and nature,

The session will also look closely at the Mekong delta, which is at the forefront of the sand mining challenge. WWF will detail initial results from a groundbreaking IKI-funded project in the delta - including results from an intensive measurement of the first ever, large delta wide sand budget as well as changes (such as significant alterations to river channel morphology) due to sand mining. Critically, these results will all feed into a plan to support revising policies in the delta, which could be replicated elsewhere.

The session will hear from Parties to the Ramsar Convention on solutions they have implemented and the sand mining industry - and will suggest how Ramsar, and particularly the STRP, can collaborate with UNEP, WWF, and other leaders in the sand mining field to produce effective and implementable guidance for countries to reduce the impact of sand mining and enhance the conservation and wise use of wetlands across the globe.


Welcome Remarks - Stuart Orr, WWF Global Freshwater Lead

Introduction – Concrete threat to the world’s wetlands: Scale of sand mining and key threats - Jerker Tamerlane, Ramsar Director Science & Policy

Recommendations of UNEP Sand Mining report: Stephanie Chuah, UNEP-Grid & co-author of report

Developing a sand budget to help stop the Mekong Delta from sinking and shrinking: Marc Goichot, WWF Asia-Pacific Freshwater Lead, overseeing IKI-funded project in the delta in Viet Nam

Panel discussion with reflections from industry and Ramsar State Parties: Moderated by James Dalton, IUCN

Dirk Finke, Secretary General, European Aggregates Association
State Parties (TBC)
Stephanie Chuah, UNEP-Grid

Conclusion and next steps for Ramsar Convention