BENGALURU: The state government may completely ban mining of river sand in the coming years to put an end to the sand mafia which thrives unabated. It is also contemplating on increasing the production of manufactured sand, also known as M-sand, to meet the requirements of the construction industry.
In the last two decades, the demand for construction grade sand has seen a huge increase.
This, in turn, gave birth to the sand mafia. Though various measures have already been initiated, the number of cases against those involved in illegal sand mining and transportation has also been rising.
In the last three years alone, seven to eight cases have been booked by various agencies on an average every day. Since 2014-15, as many as 8,668 cases have been registered against individuals and others for illegal sand mining or transporting.
Fines totalling Rs 4,197.88 lakh has been collected so far. “Imposing a penalty will not put an end to the menace as the real estate lobby is behind the sand mafia. We have to put a full stop to this,’’ said a senior official of the Department of Mines and Geology.
“The sand we are extracting from the riverside was formed millions of years ago. We are at a stage where river sand may no longer be available. We are already losing biodiversity. Extraction of sand will further destroy it. In order to put an end to river sand mining, the state government is likely to ban it in next two to three years and encourage use of manufactured sand,’’ the official said.
Scarce as it is, river sand is costly. “A ton of sand costs anywhere between Rs 600 and Rs 2000, depending on the quality, distance and bidder. If we produce more manufacture sand, the price of sand will automatically come down. The quality of both types of sand are the same and conform to the Indian Standards Code (ISC).
S Suresh Hari, Secretary, Confederation of Real Estate Developers’ Associations of India (CREDAI), says the construction industry in the state needs over 5,000 truck-loads of sand every month. Each truck-load is about 8-10 tons. “As availability of natural sand is less, the cost is higher. In many places, we are using M-sand, which is slightly cheaper.
In terms of quality, M-sand is good, but not very suitable for outer plastering. We have the option of using sea sand, but it contains salt components and is not good for construction. The salt can be processed, but it will make the sand more expensive. So, M-sand is the future,’’ he said.
Ivan D’Souza, Congress Chief Whip in the Legislative Council pointed out that the price of sand varies from one place to other and has called for uniform rates across the state.
Sand sale from private land
The Department allows sale of sand accumulated in private land which may be about 2-3 km from the riverside. The sand accumulates due to flooding. “As per the new sand policy, we are allowing mining of sand in private land since 2016. In the last few months, we have given permission for mining at three places in Gadag and two in Bagalkot.
There have been more inquiries from these areas, Mysuru and other places too. We will verify and allow the trade,’’ the official added.