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Goa: Construction sector fights for sand and considers alternatives
India time | 4 days ago | 07-09-2022 | 09:42
India time
4 days ago | 07-09-2022 | 09:42

PANAJI: Given the ban on sand mining for a decade and the insatiable demand, Goa’s construction industry is facing a severe shortage of sand. From clandestine deliveries at night to exorbitant prices, the restriction of sand extraction has pinched the sector. At the same time, it has forced builders to look for cheaper and more accessible alternatives such as ready-mixed cement bricks, gypsum, manufactured sand and even cementless concrete. While alluding to the presence of a sand mafia, most builders claim that the root of Goa’s sand shortage is the government’s failure to put in place proper sand mining policies. “Anytime an activity is not legal, then whatever is happening is illegal and for that you need some protection, you need a network. My hunch is that it is happening something underhanded and it has definitely affected the industry,” said an industry representative, who did not wish to be recorded. Builders also regretted that the constant intervention of activists and NGOs had also had a detrimental effect. As the state government has yet to formulate policies for controlled sand mining in the rivers of Goa, this has resulted in widespread unauthorized sand mining. In what appears to be a rivalry between two illegal sand contractors, shots were fired at three laborers extracting sand using a canoe at Maad, Bansai, Curchorem One laborer, from Jharkhand, was shot while that a second was injured. Calling the police and other authorities, sand mining begins at night and continues until the wee hours of the morning. The business is lucrative, with vendors charging between Rs 2,000 and Rs 6,700 per cubic meter. Speaking to TOI, a sand miner from Usgao, Ponda said law enforcement also had to be paid to look the other way when sand was being transported. “We get sand one way or another. Most are illegal and delivered at night. There are no invoices, no quality checks and the prices are exorbitant,” said one builder. The price of sand varies according to its coarseness and its origin. Concrete sand, pit sand and fine river sand are more expensive and of course also hard to find. Infill sand and coarse river sand are also available. A well-known builder in Margao said that to avoid the hassle, his construction company switched to manufactured sand (M Sand) which is made by grinding gravel, granite and other stones. M sand is also free of silt and clay, which are often found in river sand. “The construction industry needs to change the way it builds. When the government reduces mining and excavation, the courts intervene, and NGOs continue to file claims, the availability of raw materials, not just sand, is bound to decrease. So basically builders are now opting for ACC blocks, gypsum for plastering and even cementless concrete,” said a Vasco-based civil engineer and consultant.

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