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Construction sector in limbo due to shortage of sand

The construction industry has almost come to a standstill in Tiruchi due to acute shortage of sand, affecting the livelihood of hundreds of people depending on the industry.

Though the shortage of sand was felt even after the State government took control of sand quarrying operations in May, the crisis has deepened further during the last two months with the Public Works Department (PWD) temporarily closing the sand quarries on the riverbed of Cauvery and the Coleroon in Tiruchi and Karur districts as per a directive of the Madurai Bench of Madras High Court.

The PWD was operating around 20 sand quarries in Karur and Tiruchi districts till the injunction restraining PWD from operating sand quarries was granted in the third week of August.

Without getting into the merits and demerits of the case, stakeholders in the construction industry said 2017 was the worst year for the sector due to various reasons, but mainly acute scarcity of sand and the high rate of Goods and Services Tax on various stages of building activities.

The scarcity, which began to surface in the last quarter of 2016-17, was still continuing. In fact, it had worsened in the recent months. There was no sign of finding a solution to the important issue.

“Tiruchi has abundant sand resource. It should be available for a maximum ₹5,000 per load. But we find it extremely difficult to get sand. We shell out between ₹18,000 and ₹20,000 for two and half units of sand. It is really unfortunate,” says R. Murugesan, president, Tiruchi chapter of Builders Association of India.

T.V. Murali, former president, Confederation of Real Estate Developers' Associations of India, Tiruchi, said the resource was at a reachable distance.

But the rate had gone up by 10 times since January. Despite the cue and cry, no one bothered to find a solution, he added.

According industry sources, builders and individuals have been sourcing sand from Mayilandurai in Nagapattinam district due to closure of sand quarries in Tiruchi and Karur districts. Some builders source sand from the bullock kart suppliers. A few source sand from illegal sand miners in Thottiyam and Musiri areas.

Except for government-sponsored buildings, where M (manufactured)-sand was allowed to replace river sand, other construction activities had come to a halt. Hardly any new project and individual houses had been initiated.

Moreover, the construction cost had gone up by ₹150 to ₹200 per square feet due to high cost of sand prices, Mr. Murugesan said.


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