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Dubai sits di­rectly in the Ara­bian Desert— but de­spite this lo­ca­tion, the Arab megacity im­ports mil­lions of tons of sand from Aus­tralia. The ma­te­rial is re­quired for the con­struc­tion of new sky­scrapers be­cause the lo­cal desert sand is not suit­able as a build­ing ma­te­rial— it won’t work for con­crete be­cause it is too fine and its edges too pol­ished, so the grains don’t hold to­gether. This desert sand also can’t be used for man­u­fac­tur­ing large glass win­dows or to pro­duce tiny is­lands. In ad­di­tion to Dubai, other big cities such as Sin­ga­pore reg­u­larly pur­chase build­ing sand for con­struc­tion. It’s a lu­cra­tive busi­ness for Aus­tralia, which earns up to $5 bil­lion a year through its sand sales. But it comes at a price: Due to the ex­ces­sive pro­cure­ment of the sand, thou­sands of square miles of huge ecosys­tems are be­ing de­stroyed.

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