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June-October sand ban bites realty hard

Realty in Ranchi is reeling under a severe sand crisis in the wake of the National Green Tribunal's ban on sand mining during monsoon to avert floods.

  • Published 23.07.17
Sand kept near a pond at Bariatu in Ranchi. Picture by Hardeep Singh

Ranchi/Jamshedpur, July 22: Realty in Ranchi is reeling under a severe sand crisis in the wake of the National Green Tribunal's ban on sand mining during monsoon to avert floods.

Though Ranchi district administration had tried to take preventive measures before monsoon by inviting 20 registered sand suppliers to apply for stock licence - so that they could store sand in bulk beforehand - only two applied, deputy commissioner Manoj Kumar said.

"Of the two, one was disqualified because he did not have adequate space to store sand in bulk," the DC said.

In Jharkhand, sand mining is banned from June 15 to October 15 as a flood prevention measure since sand, lining the river banks, acts a natural barrier to overflowing water.

Right now, whatever sand is coming to city builders is either from a pre-monsoon consignments or more likely from illegal mining. Coarse sand used to bind bricks is scarce. Fine sand used for plaster work has disappeared since one month.

For builders dependent on sand suppliers, housing projects are stuck. "Without fine sand, we can't manage plaster work and our housing and marketing complex projects across the city are incomplete. Plaster work is a must before whitewash, sanitary fittings, electrical work and carpentry," said Kumud Jha, managing director of Feacon Construction and Industries.

Vijay Agrawal, managing director of Pranami Groups, another construction company, said the sand crisis left five or six projects of his involving several crores unfinished. "No supplier is in a position to get fine sand now," Agrawal said.

Construction work in Jamshedpur was hit too.

Anoop Ranjan, director, Samay Constructions, said they were using sand that they had stocked erlier.

Suppliers transport sand for us from Bengal and Odisha. One dumper-load of sand costs Rs 14,000, which is Rs 13,000 more than the usual price. But as there is no alternative, builders like us have to pay up," said Ranjan whose company is building apartment complexes at Mango and Baridih in the steel city.

President of Jamshedpur Builders' Association Shibu Burman was in favour of the government relaxing the ban's duration.

"Builders have to buy sand at an extraordinarily high price, thus making the price of a residential flat shoot up," he said.

The crisis has even hit middleclass home-owners. Retired teacher Jhari Rai, who wanted to build extra rooms at his Harmu Housing Colony house in Ranchi, said coarse sand prices had hit the roof. "Before monsoon, I paid Rs 11 for one cubic feet of sand but now it is available for Rs 26 to Rs 30. And as fine sand is not available at all, the contractor is delaying my work," Rai said.

A sand supplier confessed some illegal sand lifting was on.

"Whatever sand you see in Ranchi has been brought from the riverbank illegally due to the ongoing monsoon ban. It is coarse. Fine sand is found deep in the river so getting it not possible," the supplier said.

Asked if the administration was aware of illegal sand supply, DC Kumar said, "It is difficult for us to be very strict as several building projects depend on sand and several livelihoods depend on those projects."

Earlier this month, sand crisis was among the issues raised during a state meeting of the 20-point implementation committee chaired by chief minister Raghubar Das. Here, a committee member had suggested giving sand mining rights to panchayats.

Told, the DC said who got sand mining rights had nothing to do with the present crisis. "Whether mining rights go to a panchayat or a private contractor through auction, no one can violate the tribunal's directive," he said.

Additional reporting by Kumud Jenamani