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Story Publication logo December 18, 2017

Tokyo Is Built on Sea-Bottom Sand


Land reclamation works are on-going at this area of Tuas, Singapore's westernmost area where a new massive container port—the world's largest in the next 30 years—is being built. The port authority is using materials dredged from the nearby seabed and earth excavated from tunneling work on a subway line to cut use of sand by about 70 per cent in the building of this pier—which will be one of four eventually. Singapore has been short of sand for its sizeable and continual land reclamation and construction…

Concrete. Glass. Silicon. Our civilization is built on the most important yet most overlooked...

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I was recently in Tokyo, where I caught the sun setting behind this confounding juxtaposition of giant shapes that is Fuji TV's headquarters. It's just one of the vast forest of skyscrapers that make up the biggest city in the world—and much of the material that makes up those buildings is sand dredged from the bottom of the ocean. Unlike most countries, which get their sand for making concrete from riverbeds and inland floodplains, resource-poor Japan is forced to turn to the sea-bed. It's much more expensive and complicated to get sand that way, but sometimes there's no choice. Japan vacuums up some 40 million cubic meters of the stuff from the ocean floor each year. That's enough to fill up the Houston Astrodome 33 times.

Of course, ocean bottom dredging has other costs as well. Hauling up all those grains can tear up the habitat of bottom-dwelling creatures and organisms—and cloud up the water with enough sediment to suffocate fish and other life forms.







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