The Telegraph
Tuesday , January 7 , 2014
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Builders feel sand mafia price pinch

The high court ban on illegal sand mining coupled with imposition of the new sand policy in the state have left a sour taste in the mouth of builders.

On a visit to Digha Ghat near the upcoming Sonepur rail-cum-road bridge on Monday, The Telegraph team found tonnes of sand being illegally mined and despatched in full view, a reflection of the state government’s failure to notify its sand policy.

The sand mafia is oblivious of the Patna High Court direction to the state government six days back to stop sand mining from riverbeds and replacing the old sand mining policy with the new one.

An overseer was spotted giving instructions to around 30 to 40 labourers, who were spotted unloading boats filled with sand at the ghat. It may appear that sand business has been affected but in reality, there was no such crisis. Contractors and agencies involved in sand mining are charging a premium from the builders.

Sand prices have gone up manifold, adversely hitting construction work in Patna. One tractor of sand, which was easily available for Rs 2,500, is now being available between Rs 3,500 and Rs 4,000.

Nanhe Kumar, a builder, said: “There is no scarcity of sand. It is available but the only thing is that we have to pay more. Sand is an important component in construction. Without sand, construction is impossible.”

He added: “If contractors keep selling sand at a high price, construction activities in the state would definitely come to a standstill.”

Under the new sand policy, which the state government has failed to notify, it is mandatory to obtain permission from the State Environment Impact Assessment Authority (EIAA) for mining in any river across the state. For areas above 100 hectares, the ministry of forest and environment gives the clearance.

The policy requires contractors or agencies, both private and government, to obtain environmental clearance before applying for sand mining lease.

On Sunday, BJP leader and former deputy chief minister Sushil Kumar Modi had attacked chief minister Nitish Kumar, holding him responsible for the price rise of sand.

Nitish countered on Monday: “The problem would be sorted out shortly. The state government has approached the high court and the Supreme Court in the matter.”