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Sand scarcity impacts construction sector

Sand scarcity has severely impacted the construction industry in the district. A strong indication is the joblessness of masons and labourers in Manapparai area, industry sources say.

In view of restrictions imposed by judicial intervention on sand quarrying from Mayanur to Tiruchi, the construction industry has been urging the State government to come out with an alternative plan of action for promoting use of manufactured sand, but to no avail.

Builders are, in fact, divided over their preference for river sand and manufactured sand. While one section feels that the manufactured sand does not match up to the quality of river sand, research undertaken by cement industries and Indian Institute of Technology-Madras indicated that manufactured sand is of higher quality, and cite damage caused to durability of steel in concrete by the excessive silt and organic impurities in river sand.

Nevertheless, the attention of the construction industry is now on manufactured sand, which, builders say, will be of much better quality than river sand. But, the m-sand must be manufactured in compliance with ISI (Indian Standards Institution) norms. Supply of quarry dust in the name of manufactured sand will not serve the purpose, R. Murugesan, Chairman of Builders' Association of India, Tiruchi Chapter, says.

Purchase of river sand at a cost of Rs. 20,000 for 2.25 units in the place of Rs. 6,500 for four units earlier would inevitably lead to escalation in the cost of buildings by 7.5 % to 10 %, he said.

The State government has understandably sanctioned new licences in recent months for producing manufactured sand obtained through crushing blue metal in stone quarries.

However, according to builders in the district, as such, manufactured sand can only serve the short-term purpose of preventing stoppage of construction works for want of river sand.

According to an official source, the government is deliberately going slow on coming out with a policy statement on manufactured sand since it would again pose another environmental problem of excessive quarrying of blue metal.

Mr. Murugesan acknowledged that dependence on manufactured sand in the long run was not a practical idea, since the number of stone quarries are not adequate to fulfil requirements of the construction industry. The government must, instead, explore the scope for conversion of the wastage in the existing granite quarries into quality sand in the short run and large-scale utilisation of gravel soil in the long run, he said.


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