Price, quality leave stakeholders divided over purchase of imported sand

Though the sand imported from Malaysia is expected to ease the crisis in the construction activities, not all stakeholders seem to agree on this as they point to the high price and its quality. However, government officials sounded positive citing the response to the sale of Malaysian sand that was imported by a private party at the VOC port in Thoothukudi around eight months ago.
Price, quality leave stakeholders divided over purchase of imported sand


T Henry Daniel, former Regional Chairman, Federation of All Civil Engineers Association of Tamil Nadu and Pondicherry, said while good quality manufactured sand (M-sand) was available in plenty at a reasonable price, high-priced imported sand would not be preferred by construction engineers. 
The government had sought to undermine the quality of sand imported from Malaysia twice earlier and declared that it could not be sold in India. Such import consignments were lying in the seaport at Thoothukudi. 
In October last, 55,000 tonnes of river sand was imported from Malaysia and another consignment of 58,616 tonnes was shipped from that country to Thoothukudi earlier this year. Henry Daniel said common minerals often found in sand were silica and quartz. The sand grading was lax as key parameters as per Indian standards of transforming finer particles into granulated sand varied.
While the sale of imported sand was in the public domain, builders were hesitant to purchase it at a high price. The sale of local river sand has been on for the last eight months through, but it did not get a good response since buyers, who booked for transportation with registration numbers of trucks, were required to wait for their turn.
Highlighting the advantages of M-sand, he said its price was affordable at Rs 2,400 to Rs 2,700 per tonne. On the other hand, chances of adulteration were high as buyers could mix the imported sand with others. 
The construction industry was already affected as bankers had refrained from providing loans. Only when an individual’s take home salary was Rs 24,000 and over, loans were offered for construction, he told DT Next.
JP Joe Villavarayar, president, Tuticorin Ship Agents Association, said the imported sand should reach genuine users and this new initiative should not be a failure like the ‘Amma Cement scheme’. 
Only based on credentials such as building plan approval, which needs to be certified by the engineer concerned, the quantity of sand should be allotted to any buyer, he said. To check hoarding, these parameters need to be followed strictly, he added.
S Murugan, joint secretary, Tuticorin Lorry Owners Association, said truck operators had been waiting to transport the sand. About 25 per cent of the truck operators could benefit from the initiative since many buyers had already provided the registration numbers of the trucks they preferred. He said the cost of imported sand was more expensive than locally available river sand. “Three units, which contain 12,000 tonnes of local river sand, cost Rs 4,600 besides transportation cost.”
S Prem Athithan, construction aggregate exporter, said as builders had been facing scarcity of sand, the sale of imported sand would help the construction industry, which has been facing a crisis. Despite the high price, the entire volume of imported sand was sold out in just about an hour after online booking opened, he said. 
Thoothukudi Collector Sandeep Nanduri, when contacted, said the State government, which launched an online booking system to purchase the imported sand, has made it operational.
Many buyers from southern districts, including Thoothukudi, Tirunelveli and Kanniyakumari, have registered for purchasing the sand. In the first phase, 11,000 tonnes of the imported sand would be despatched.
The Supreme Court had fixed the price at Rs. 9,990 per unit, which would contain four to five tonnes. A buyer would be allowed to transport the sand on 2–5 truckloads. 
Since building contractors had been experiencing shortage of sand, this new facility to purchase the imported sand online would cater to their needs. This would also prevent middlemen from fleecing the buyers. PWD officials after examining its quality, allowed the imported sand to be sold, the Collector said.
Sources from the VOC Port said the imported sand is yet to be transported. Based on court clearance, the commodity would be moved from the port, sources added.

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