Aggregates is the term for various coarse to medium-sized particulate material used in construction – it includes gravel, crushed stone, sand, recycled concrete and geosynthetic material. Sand is the focus for this project as, globally, it forms the largest material flow for construction.

Joint UK-Kenyan project blends earth observation data with local stakeholder input to support the sustainable supply of sand and aggregates in Kenya

With the global demand for sand increasing, NIRAS is excited to be part of a team to develop a more sustainable system for the management of this important resource.

21. Oct 2020

Sand used as aggregate forms an essential and finite resource.  Growing demand for construction – buildings and infrastructure, creating land through reclamation, and coastal protection from climate change – has resulted in supply pressures on traditional sources.  Unmanaged extraction is an emerging and locally significant problem around the world. The United Nations has highlighted the issue, which has the potential to cause wide-ranging social, economic and environmental damage. Such impacts can include pollution, land erosion, changing water flows, biodiversity loss, damage to infrastructure, habitat degradation, and negative effects on vulnerable communities.

Led by earth observation company Pixalytics Ltd, the Earth Observation for Sustainable Aggregate Supply (EO4SAS) project will support the Government of Kenya in its efforts to develop strategies to improve the sustainable management of sand extraction, transportation and related supply chains. EO4SAS is one of ten recently announced International Partnership Programmes (IPP) projects as part of a new £3.4 million programme funded by the UK Space Agency for the Department for Business and Energy and Industrial Strategy’s (BEIS) Global Challenges Research Fund (GCRF). 

NIRAS Africa will work with Pixalytics alongside Kenyan partners Nairobi Design Institute as well as UK partners Satellite Applications Catapult, Chatham House and the University of Plymouth to deliver the work. In addition, the minerals team at the British Geological Survey will support the project.

Working alongside local stakeholders and employing satellite data, machine-learning technology, and in-country knowledge, the EO4SAS team will create a better understanding of the current extraction sites, scale, transportation routes for sand and the environmental impacts thereof. This is a short-term “Discovery” project, running until March 2021, to look at the implementation of strategies for the sustainable management of this resource. It is hoped the proposed recommendations  will go on to receive further funding, consequently improving the monitoring and regulation of aggregate mining, supporting sustainability in the aggregate supply chain, and achieving progress towards the UN Sustainable Development Goals. 

Liz Cox, IPP’s Head of International Relations at the UK Space Agency, said “The compelling results of previous IPP projects cement the case for investment in space for sustainable development. IPP is not only demonstrating the value of satellite solutions and improving the lives of people on the ground in developing countries, but also facilitating effective alliances between the United Kingdom and international organisations. It’s a ‘win-win’ and an exciting moment in the Programme”.