Dig Conservation, Not Holes
Over the next 25 years, the GTA will need to renew its urban infrastructure. At the same time the GTA will need to house millions more new Ontarians. This will mean building new urban infrastructure to accommodate a larger population while trying to minimize development that destroys our remaining natural spaces. Aggregate will be required to meet these pressing needs.
The question GTA residents – in particular elected officials – need to ask themselves is whether they want this aggregate demand to be met by destroying precious ecologically-sensitive land and farmland, much of it in the Greenbelt?
The Greater Toronto Area (GTA) is literally made of stone, sand and gravel, collectively known as aggregate. Aggregate is in the cement we use to make sidewalks, bridges, large buildings, sewers, the foundations of our homes, and the underground tunnels for subways, cars, and pedestrian walkways. Large amounts of aggregate are also used to make our roads, both the beds on which they sit and the asphalt we use to pave them. Put simply, aggregate is everywhere.
According to industry estimates, the GTA will use about 1.5 billion tonnes of aggregate over the next 25 years.
Creating the pits or quarries requires the removal of virtually all natural vegetation, top soil and subsoil to reach the aggregate underneath. Not only does this lead to a loss of existing animal wildlife, it also leads to a huge loss of biodiversity as plants and aquatic habitats are destroyed. Moreover, adjacent eco-systems are affected by noise, dust, pollution and contaminated water.
Pits and quarries disrupt the existing movement of surface water and groundwater; they interrupt natural water recharge and can lead to reduced quantity and quality of drinking water for residents and wildlife near or downstream from a quarry site.
We do not need to destroy more of the Greenbelt to ensure the GTA’s infrastructure is maintained and grows. The simple solution, as outlined by the Ontario Greenbelt Alliance is to take something we practice every day at home – the 3Rs (reduce, reuse and recycle) and apply it to aggregate use in our cities.