The severe shortage of river sand that crippled the construction sector even before the slowdown set in had forced many to choose manufactured sand (M-Sand) despite reservations about its quality. However, the demand for good quality river sand has not come down, with several builders continuing to prefer it over the manufactured variety.
But many among them are reluctant, claiming that structures built with M-Sand are not as strong as the ones built using river sand.
Rajan K, a builder in Tiruvottiyur, believes that structures are much stronger when built with natural sand. “River sand takes only a little while to set and is stronger, ensuring that the buildings remain strong for more than 50 years. In comparison, M-Sand mixture takes longer to get dry and they structure would get damaged easily. However, as the demand increased, we were forced to use the latter,” he said.
The cost of river sand plays an important role in this. River sand costs about Rs 10,000 per unit, while M-Sand is available at Rs 7,000 or so, Rajan said.
However, not all are on the same page on suspecting the quality of the manufactured produced. S Rama Prabhu, the chairman of Builders Association of India’s southern chapter is one of those who believe that M-Sand makes buildings stronger, claiming that about 90 per cent of both private and government buildings are constructed using M-Sand.
“As there was no river sand available in Tamil Nadu, we did not have a choice but to convert to using M-Sand,” he said. According to him, even bridges are being constructed with it these days. “But if you purchase M-Sand from local markets, the quality may not be good and the structures will be weaker. It should be procured only from the vendors approved by the PWD,” Rama Prabhu added.
Though the PWD began importing sand from Malaysia to address the scarcity that had seriously hit the construction sector, the present demand is not as high as they expected, said a senior official. Thus, the import from Malaysia has come down to 20,000 tonnes from the initial quantum of 55,000 tonnes. However, that does not mean there are no takers for river sand, he added. “Though many builders have switched to M-sand, the demand for river sand remains the same,” he said.