Construction work across Bihar has been hit after the state government strictly enforced the National Green Tribunal (NGT) ban on sand mining in rivers during monsoon for environment protection and avoid flooding.
The mines and geology department in the state have fixed the period of ban from July 1 to September 30, but the enforcement started in the right earnest after senior IAS officer K.K. Pathak took charge of the department as principal secretary earlier this month. Crackdown on the sand mafia, which indulges in mining more than the permissible limit, is being considered one of the reasons behind the scarcity.
Builders and developers are the most aggrieved lot because they have to stop construction at the sites of their ongoing projects. Manikant, the former vice-president of Builders' Association of India and owner of Surya Nest Build real estate company here, said: "Work at all our sites, as well as, those of other builders and developers, has come to a standstill. There is no sand and we cannot do anything to replace the vital ingredient in construction activities. The situation is so bad that we are unable to get even a few sacks of sand to give finishing touches to the buildings in Patna."
Pointing out that the NGT ban was there for the past few years but was enforced in Bihar this year, Manikant said the builders and developers met deputy chief minister Sushil Kumar Modi, who has ensured that the sand seized during this monsoon will be auctioned soon to address the scarcity problem.
"The deputy CM assured us that the government will advertise the river sand mining ban during the monsoon from next year so that people are not caught unawares during the rainy season and could store sand for their use," Manikant added.
Not only the builders but also common people who are constructing houses and other buildings for personal use during this monsoon have been badly affected. Vinay Kumar Thakur, who is constructing a house in Samastipur, said: "The price of sand that I was buying at the rate of Rs 3,200 per 100 cubic feet has shot up to Rs 8,700 per 100 cubic feet. I have stopped the construction because I cannot afford such high prices," he said.
A sand miner in Patna, who has a licence to mine and store sand, said: "Earlier, we used to mine river sand even during the monsoon despite the ban. But this year it was enforced suddenly. We did not get any time to stock it."
Mines and geology department director Satish Kumar Singh said seeing the scarcity the government has decided to ban sand export to other states till September 30. "Sand from rivers in Bihar goes to Uttar Pradesh, New Delhi and other states because of its good quality. But we have banned it to cater to the demands of our own people. We are also checking illegal mining," Satish said.