Tamil Nadu Sand Lorry Owners' Federation demands separate board for sand mining

The sudden closure of sand quarries in the neighbouring districts has resulted in price hike and shortage of the material and consequently slowing down of many construction projects in the city, according to members of Tamil Nadu Sand Lorry Owners' Federation.

They said that the government had closed the quarries in the Chennai region after the election. The Public Works Department has suspended quarrying in the Chennai region, which is made up of eight districts, including Vellore, Kancheepuram, Tiruvallur and Villupuram.

President of the Federation S.Yuvaraj said that of the eight quarries in Kancheepuram district only two were functioning at the time of election. As even those have been closed now, sand is being brought from Tiruchi. Even this has come to a halt as the quarries in Tiruchi have stopped selling sand loads to Chennai.

The cost of two units of sand (nine tonnes) has increased three times, ranging from Rs.13,000 to 15,000, because of the shortage. Though the PWD sells a load of sand for Rs.624, transportation, labour and loading costs jack up the price of the product for end users, particularly when the material is brought from far away places. The city's demand for the material is about 10,000 loads daily. Around 15,000 lorries transport the material to Chennai. He alleged that the loading contractor quarried several loads illegally, resulting in revenue loss to the government.

Federation members demanded that the government form a separate board for sand mining. If the situation does not stabilise in a week, the members plan to stage a demonstration at the respective District Collector's offices and PWD offices on May 5.

According to builders there is no justification for the cost of construction materials, such as sand and cement going up. Some developers say the situation is worse than what it was during the last quarter of 2010.

Construction companies, which are already facing manpower shortage, say increase in the cost of basic construction materials has added to the overall project cost. As construction cannot come to a complete halt, it is the end-user who has to shell out more, they say.

“We used to source 350 cubic feet of sand daily for two of our ongoing projects. Now, with much difficulty I get this quantity that too on alternate days. Earlier, we could source sand from within 80-90 km. Now we are buying from Tiruchi. From Rs.15 for a cubic feet, the cost has increased to Rs.40,” says M.K. Sundaram, managing director, Chozha Foundations.

Even the cost of alternative materials, such as quarry dust, had gone up. “At our ongoing project in Medavakkam, we are using quarry dust. A year ago, we use to buy one cubic feet at Rs.5 and now it is Rs.15,” says Suresh Krishn, managing director, Isha Homes.

According to PWD officials, they had to close the quarries, including those along the Palar river bed, owing to protests from villagers who feared groundwater depletion. Some quarries have been shut as they have reached their maximum mining capacity.

“We have located a few more sand mining points. District revenue divisional officers are holding talks with residents. The situation would stabilise by next week. We need to find an alternative to sand such as use of quarry dust,” said an official.

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