Mysore region is one of the important hubs for sand availability, and most builders there feel the need of the hour is a uniform sand policy in view of its requirements for the construction sector.

The nationwide ban on sand extraction has made little impact on the construction industry in Mysore as the scenario was bad even before the ban order was promulgated

The housing and construction sector has been limping for some time due to the frequent disruption in sand supply, attributed to the grip of the sand mafia controlling the supply chain.

While the district administration fixed Rs.7,850 as the rate per truck load of sand in a bid to control the escalating prices, a leading builder told The Hindu that sand was still being sold anywhere between Rs.11,000 and Rs.13,500 per truck load. “But the bulk of it was being procured from K.R.Nagar and surrounding areas as there was a crackdown on sand extraction on the banks of the Cauvery and the Kapila or Kabini at T.Narsipur,” he added.

Sand used to be extracted on a large scale from these two river beds and transported from T.Narsipur, Talakad, Somnathpur, Nanjangud, K.R.Nagar, K.R.Pet, Srirangapatna, Kollegal and other places. The region is a major supplier of sand not only to Mysore but also to Bangalore.

It is reckoned that at least 300 to 400 truck loads of sand would enter Mysore city every day to support the construction sector during normal times. But since the last couple of months the supply had declined and this is attributed to increase in the volume of water in the river and flash floods. As a result there was little sand extraction from the riverbeds or banks during late June and July and the construction sector felt the pinch.

A.R. Ravindra Bhat of the Builders Association of India, Mysore chapter, pointed out that the quality of sand supplied during the monsoon was bad with lot of impurities in it. This could not be used for either plastering or concrete works as a result of which work on nearly 60 to 70 apartment projects underway in the city, and other infrastructure works, came to a standstill or slowed down. He said the latest ban order — till it was resolved in the courts — would further slow down the ongoing works. The increase in the price of steel and cement, labour cost and the premium paid on sand will add to the total project cost and affect the end-users.

If the Government implements the ban on sand extraction in totality, then it will definitely hamper all construction work, leading to delay in projects and further cost escalation, said Mr. Bhat. Other builders said the need of the hour is a uniform sand policy in view of its requirements for the construction sector.

Concern over prices

Builders are also perturbed that sand, which is naturally available from the river bed, is being charged a premium and costs around Rs.70 per cubic feet. Jelly stone dust, also used in the construction industry and which needs to be processed and refined before application, costs around Rs.32 per cubic feet. Hence they suspect the role of the mafia in price determination.

In the absence of steady supply of sand the construction sector in Mysore, as also elsewhere in the State, is banking on an alternative in the form of manufactured sand. “But this too is in short supply as the existing supplier in Bidadi could not cope with the demand. Manufactured sand can be used for laying concrete and for plastering the walls but it costs almost as much as the sand extracted from the river bed and banks,” according to Mr. Bhat.

Builders reckon manufactured sand’s performance to be superior in some respects to the naturally available sand. However, with uncertainty in the supply of natural sand, the demand for manufactured sand will increase and the supply-demand mismatch will ensure that the cost of the manufactured sand skyrockets in due course. In the final analysis it is the end users who will have to bear the shock.