K. Ramachandran

Unprecedented rain and flooding this season are to blame, say contractors

CHENNAI: The nearly three-year-long boom in the construction industry, spurred by the phenomenal growth of information technology parks in and around Chennai, has run into problems - severe shortage of construction sand and bricks - in the past few days.

The unprecedented rain and flooding this season have affected sand quarrying operations and brick manufacturing business, say the contractors.

More than 10 million sqft of space dedicated to IT business is coming up in the metropolis. But the contractors fear that the projects may not be able to meet the deadline, despite the fact that info tech companies have set stiff target dates. "The multinational companies who are setting up IT facilities here want the buildings completed on date. But we are facing a shortage of material. Although, we have about half-a-dozen ready mix concrete and plaster manufacturing units here, they may not be able to meet the demand in time... ," says Mr. Ganesan, who has taken up IT park projects involving a million sqft. Unlike the earlier days, the contracts do not have an escalation clause (to cover cost overrun). The extended project period will mean that the builders will incur more expenditure on providing the statutory benefits to workers.

The chairman of the Builders Association of India, Chennai, L. Moorthy, says: "Sand has become a scarce material and not at all available in the market. Only one sand quarry is functional that too at Walajah and we are able to get supply once in three days only... "

Workdays wasted

Construction work is seriously affected in the past one and a half months and if the situation continues, another 20 workdays will get wasted. IT parks are the most affected. Major development works are going on and each day is precious for the contractors, he says.

D. Varadarajulu, vice-president, brick and tile manufacturers association, says about 300 brick- making units functioned in Tiruvallur and Kancheepuram, supplying about 1,200 truckloads a day. "But now the units are either flooded or the earth needed for making bricks is too wet. The labourers in the units have gone to their native place as there is no work. They will come back only after Pongal. We fear that by the time the bricks are made, burnt and made ready for supply, it will be late February," he says.

Builders and contractors say the government, which controls sand quarrying operations in the State, can intervene to open more sand quarries and provide access roads to them as early as possible in the long-term interest of the economy.

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