The Telegraph
Wednesday , January 8 , 2014
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Ban cloud on big projects

- Contractor hiccups over sand policy

Several big-budget infrastructure projects are caught in the wrangle over the recent high court ban on illegal sand mining.

Senior officials of the building construction department and Bihar Rajya Pul Nirman Nigam Ltd (BRPNNL) have claimed that contractors have already started complaining about short supply of sand and are apprehensive about construction work coming to a halt if similar conditions prevail.

“Infrastructure projects such as construction of flyover require daily supply of raw material like sand and stone chips in large quantities. Since the ban on sand mining from January 1, fresh supply has stopped. Work is in progress with the stockpile that the contractors term stop gap supply. However, now they are apprehensive that work might stop if any alternative arrangement is not done and the existing stopgap supply gets exhausted,” said a senior BRPNNL official.

BRPNNL is the executing agency for the Jagdeopath-Sheikhpura Mor flyover project, work on which began in December, 2012. The Bihar Museum, a state-of-the-art museum coming on Bailey Road, faces similar dilemma.

The building construction department and the department of art, culture and youth affairs are jointly developing it. Laying its foundation stone on July 9, 2013, chief minister Nitish Kumar had set March 22, 2015, as the deadline for opening the facility to the public. However, sand mining restrictions are likely to pose serious obstacles in progress of the project.

“Larsen & Toubro (L&T) is constructing the museum. Big companies like L&T keep their contingency mechanism ready to face such conditions. However, things might turn serious for even those in absence of fresh supply of sand,” said a senior official of the building construction department. The department is working on a number of development projects in the city, which include the Niyojan Bhavan (employment exchange) at Income Tax roundabout, International Convention Centre on the northern side of Gandhi Maidan and the annexe building of the state legislature.

Chanchal Kumar, the secretary of the building construction department, said: “No contractor has complained to me. I will have to talk to my engineers and assess if they have been informed by someone.” Officials said ground-levelling work was on at the first two projects, while the sand mining issue might hit the third one.

“Work on the super structure of the annexe building is in progress. Many components of such a big project are technical and are being done for the first time in the state. It requires more time and problems like shortage of sand supply can further impede its progress,” said a senior engineer of the building construction department.

The sand related turmoil started after Patna High Court, in its recent order, prohibited sand mining without the implementation of the new excavation policy and fresh allotment of mining rights with the Supreme Court’s approval. The state cabinet approved the new sand policy in August, 2013, and notified by the mines and geology department.

The state government would now file a special leave petition in the apex court.

“We are going to file a special leave petition in the Supreme Court to set aside the Patna High Court order and seek its consent on sand mining activities in the state. Till then, all police stations and the superintendent of police have been asked to keep a strict vigil on construction activities,” said a senior official of the mines and geology department.

Though the public sector projects are facing the heat of the sand ban, the real estate market does not seem to be much affected, thanks to strict vigil on building construction activities by the high court and the Patna Municipal Corporation.

“It is ironical but real estate construction activities are already on a standstill in the city. Further restriction on sand supply is not creating much problem. Builders working on small projects would be hit,” said Sachin Chandra, the chairman of Bihar chapter of Builders’ Association of India.

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