Environmental clearance: Sand prices shoot up as over 80% mines shut in Punjab
Of total 125 identified sand mines in Punjab, only 21 (15%) are functional, leading to shortage of the mineral in the state forcing the people to delay construction or buy the core building material at much higher rates
Chandigarh : Of total 125 identified sand mines in Punjab, only 21 (15%) are functional, leading to shortage of the mineral in the state forcing the people to delay construction or buy the core building material at much higher rates.
A majority of mines have been shut as the environmental clearance by the State Environment Impact Assessment Authority (SEAA) for their operations has lapsed on December 31 last year, people familiar with the development said.
“It has been over a month that most of the mines which have abundant mineral (sand) have been closed as the environmental clearance has lapsed,” said an official of state water resources department.
Last year, the Aam Aadmi Party (AAP) government identified 60 public mines, sand from which could be used for residential construction. Of these, only nine are functional ---- one each in Rupnagar, Jalandhar and Hoshiarpur, two in Mohali and four in Ludhiana.
There are 65 mines for commercial excavation in the state of which only 12 are functional --- four in Ludhiana, two in Nawanshahr, three in Fazilka and one each on Tarn Taran, Jalandhar and Hoshiarpur.
According to an official of the mining department, sand is sold at ₹5.5 per cubic feet (plus ₹0.35 tax) at commercial and public mines. However, most of the mineral is being transported from Ludhiana district (where eight mines are operational) to different parts of the state and the distance adds the cost.
For every 5km, ₹4 per cubic feet is levied as transportation charges, which means that for a trailer of 200 cubic feet full of sand, the consumer has to pay additional cost of ₹800 for every 5km.
Maninder Singh, a house builder in Mohali, said sand prices have shot up owing to shortage and if material is required at short notice, the prices are further jacked up. “The cost of a trailer of 200 cubic feet sand at the quarry is around ₹1,200, but it is available between ₹7,000 to ₹10,000 or even more at the construction site,” he added.
A building contractor, not willing to be named, said about two months back, a cubic feet of sand for commercial purpose used to cost ₹36 to ₹40 per cubic feet at the construction site, but rates have increase manifold now.
“On assuming power, the AAP government promised to give sand at controlled price, but transportation is not in government control. We may come up with the policy to regulate the cost of transportation too,” said a government official, seeking anonymity.
Secretary, mines and geology, Gurkirat Kirpal Singh said: “We are hopeful to get environment clearances for about 40 excavation sites by the SEAA within next 10 days.”
“It’s a time-consuming process to get (environment) clearance for a sand mine, which takes about one year. The (mining) department is trying to get provisional clearances at the earliest to run the mines,” he added.
The AAP government had changed the system of environment clearances as during the previous governments, the contractors used to take the permissions in their name but now the department takes clearances and hands it over to the contractors.