Says it will ensure steady supply of sand for many years

The former Water Resources Minister N.K. Premachandran says that by de-silting the reservoirs of dams in the State, the State government can declare a moratorium on mining sand from rivers for five or more years.

The quantity of silt in the reservoirs, he adds, is so huge that by removing it, the construction sector in the State can be ensured a steady supply of sand at a reduced price for several years. That means more revenue to the exchequer.

Mr. Premachandran told The Hindu here on Saturday that de-silting of reservoirs and sale of the released sand was a difficult proposition at present and tremendous political willpower was needed to overcome the hurdles. He wanted Chief Minister Oommen Chandy to take the initiative in this connection by constituting a de-silting system.

Mr. Premachandran said 40 dams in the State were heavily silted, bringing down their water-storage capacity by 15-20 per cent. A lowered capacity reduced the potential of electricity generation and irrigation. In fact, none of the dams had been de-silted so far.

He said that while de-silting could be easy, dumping and transporting of sand faced hurdles created by trade unions irrespective of political affiliations. He had several reasons to believe that the “sand mafia” had been instigating the unions, as the demand for sand illegally mined from rivers would go down.

He cited the Malampuzha experience as a fine instance of extortion by trade unions. The unions demanded Rs.500 a person as de facto ‘nokkukooli' (a payment demanded by the unions even if the work is done by others). The huge quantities of sand de-silted from the reservoir had not reached construction sites because of the extortion.

The unions had even rejected a proposal by the Forest Department to provide their members work with the social forestry wing and pay them Rs.500 as daily wage to each of them. The unions continued to insist on ‘nokkukooli.' The same problem was faced at Akkulam in Thiruvananthapuram.

He said there was nothing wrong in tapping the private sector for the de-silting. To overcome the hurdles posed by the sand mafia, a strong political will was required.