As a result of the high court ban on sand extraction from riverbeds in Maharashtra, developers are expecting construction work to be hit in the next ten days, due to lack of availability of sand.
“Most stock of river sand is going to run out in another four-five days,” said Sunil Mantri, chairman, MCHI (Maharashtra Chamber of Housing Society). “50,000 trucks of river sand is used in Maharashtra daily. The only source of sand for construction is dredging. With that as well as import of sand from Gujarat banned, we are left with no alternative.”
In a letter to Chief Minister Ashok Chavan, Bhagwan Deokar, president, Builders’ Association of India (BAI), has urged the chief minister to “look into the matter seriously and recommend the use of an alternate material in place of sand.” “The ban would affect ongoing projects like construction of Monorail, Metro, airports, seaports, expansion of sea-link projects, affordable housing, slum rehabilitation scheme, and more than 20,000 dilapidated residential buildings,” added Deokar.
The option of using crushed sand (manufactured using rocks and pebbles) is also ruled out as its use in construction is banned. Even if the government does allow use of crushed sand, it would take a few months for setting up enough plants to meet the supply requirement. Moreover, officials from BAI and MCHI claim that only 20 per cent of construction work can be undertaken with crushed sand, beyond which river sand is essential.
“The state had planned to provide Mumbai with 5 lakh affordable homes in 5 years. But, with this ban, it seems impossible to achieve the target of 1 lakh affordable homes in 1 year,” Mantri added
According to Alkesh Jain, COO, Neev Infrastrucure, they will run out of sand stock in another five days. “So far, we were taking sand from our associates. But, all builders are facing the problem. We have seven ongoing residential projects, which will come to a halt,” said Jain.
The BAI has also expressed concerns regarding the employment of 90 lakh workers from the construction industry in Maharashtra. “In many pockets of Maharashtra, where there is no farming, construction is the source of living for many.
The ban will render a lot of people unemployed,” added Deokar.
The ban has been imposed as a result of a petition filed by Sagar Shramik Hatpadi Walu Utpadak Sahakari Sanstha, which was concerned about illegal sand mining and excessive sand extraction leading to damage to riverbeds that can cause floods.