Vietnam is in danger of running out of construction sand due to over-exploitation and rapid development, according to the Ministry of Construction.
As Vietnamese cities continue to experience a construction boom, government officials predict the country may run out of construction sand by 2020.
According to Tuoi Tre, Ministry of Construction official Pham Van Bac, who serves as director of the Department of Construction Materials, made this projection at a press conference on Wednesday, saying that current domestic demand could wipe out Vietnam’s sand reserves in the coming years.
Bac went on to note that Vietnam needs approximately 2.1-2.3 billion cubic meters of sand during the 2016-2020 period; however, the country’s reserves top out at just over 2 billion cubic meters.
Sand prices have also risen as a result of this skyrocketing demand, according to the news outlet. Ministry reports found that between March and April of this year, the cost of construction sand rose as much as 200%, while continued price hikes have caused problems for builders throughout the country. Late last month, VietnamNet reported a handful of Mekong Delta infrastructure projects grinding to a halt due to rising costs, a lack of sand, or both.
Beyond slowing down construction work, illegal sand mining along the Saigon River has caused erosion, washing away houses near the riverbanks, reports Vietnam News.
While the cause of this sand shortage is mostly high demand, a handful of other factors have also contributed to the problem. Hydropower plants, for instance, have caused a decline in sand build-up in rivers, reports Tuoi Tre.
Authorities are, however, attempting to remedy the problem. In March, Prime Minister Nguyen Xuan Phuc encouraged provincial officials to lift a ban which prevents the transport of natural resources to other provinces. Meanwhile, the Ministry of Construction has proposed the use of alternative materials, such as ash and plaster. Ministry officials are now working on a set of standards for the use of such materials in construction work.
Vietnam’s sand mining problem is dire; however, it is far from the only country experiencing such a dilemma. Earlier this year, the Guardian pointed to a global sand crisis that was destroying natural habitats, killing off wildlife and endangering waterfront construction, which can collapse when the sand beneath a body of water has been excessively mined.
From eroding shorelines in California to the disappearing islands of Indonesia, the country has lost at least 24 islands to sand mining since 2005, reports the news outlet; rapid urban growth has created a staggering demand for construction sand.
Over the last four decades, Singapore has added 20 square miles to its territory by way of imported sand. Demand from the world’s largest sand importer has taken so much from its surrounding neighbors, Guardian reports, that Vietnam, Indonesia and Malaysia have all banned the sale of sand to Singapore, as has Cambodia.
With 54% of the global population now living in urban areas, according to the United Nations, and another 2.5 billion expected by 2050, 90% of which will be concentrated in Asia and Africa; sand mining around the world is unlikely to stop any time soon.