The stay on sand mining on river beds as per the order of the National Green Tribunal has put the building and construction industry in a quandary.
Not surprisingly, real estate developers have come out in vociferous protest.
Anand Gupta, Secretary, Builders Association of India (BAI), said the order would severely impact construction activity across the country. 'In terms of cost, sand constitutes a mere 2-2.5 per cent of the construction cost. So, it is not so significant but the problem is that there is no suitable alternative to river sand.’’
The industry felt that construction being an ongoing and continuous process, sand could not be deposited and stored for more than a couple of days at a time.
'Sand is one of the most essential inputs for construction. The ban is a retrograde step, and I do not think it is proper to pass orders without allowing the thousands of developers to have their say. Far from curbing sand smuggling, this could well increase it,' Lalit Kumar Jain, National Chairman, Confederation of Real Estate Developers’ Associations of India (CREDAI) told The Hindu.
For the last few years, crushed stone and finely ground concrete have been tried out as an alternative for sand. 'Although it is cheaper, it cannot really substitute sand, which still accounts for a lion’s share of use in plastering and finishing,’’ Mr. Gupta said. ' The government knows the requirement, and must have sufficient depots.’’
The so-called ‘sand mafia’ was created by the government system, an industry representative said, adding that it was the responsibility of district collectors to issue permission for sand mining to match the requirement of the construction industry for which they issued certificates.
'If everything we do is subject to clearances such as this, it will send the construction industry for a toss,' said Mr. Jain. This action would result in huge losses in the form of delays, he said, adding that project costs could increase three-fold as sand would have to be imported from countries such as Pakistan and Cambodia. 'Unfortunately, the consumer would suffer most, as he would have to pay for this cost hike'.