The river sand from Malaysia has arrived at Krishnapattanam port in Andhra Pradesh, and is awaiting government clearance

The state government will sell imported packaged sand from Malaysia in 50kg sacks from January 2018 to reduce the demand-supply gap, protect riverbeds and curb illegal mining.

The river sand from Malaysia has arrived at Krishnapattanam port in Andhra Pradesh, and is awaiting government clearance. As imported sand could not be sold, the state government has amended the Karnataka Minor Mineral Concession Rules, 1994, to allow dealers to import and sell sand. The amendment is yet to be notified, but this is expected to happen on Tuesday.

The sand will be sold through Mysore Sales International Limited (MSIL), which has purchased 54,000 metric tonnes from Malaysia. “The sand is expected to be in the market by the first week of January and we’ve priced one 50kg sack at Rs 195, inclusive of 5% GST and government royalty of Rs 60 per tonne,” said MSIL managing director GC Prakash. At Rs 3,900 per tonne, the price of imported sand is less than sand extracted in Karnataka (Rs 6,700 per tonne).

“The amendment was made last Friday and will be notified on Tuesday. The guidelines will be issued along with the new rules. To start with MSIL will sell the packaged sand at its outlets but soon the government will give licences to individual dealers,” said Rajendra Kumar Kataria, secretary, department of commerce and industries (mines and micro, small and medium enterprises).

Presently, the annual demand for sand in the state is estimated at 50 million tonnes. Only six million tonnes is legally mined, while M-sand (manufactured sand, a by-product of stone quarrying) covers 20 million tonnes of the demand. The rest of the unmet demand is exploited by the sand mafia.

The move to allow imported sand comes after various stakeholders raised concerns about riverbeds being illegally exploited for construction and the sand mafia causing irreversible damage to ecology. The state cabinet approved the proposal in August.

“The situation is alarming. We are left with only 26 million tonnes of river sand and we cannot exploit it anymore. While we are exploring other options to meet the sand demand from the construction industry, the first option is to import river sand,” Kataria said.

MSIL will start selling the imported packaged sand in ten ‘dry districts’, including Bengaluru rural and urban, Kolar, Chikkaballapur, Ramanagar, Tumkur, Mandya, Mysuru and Chamarajanagar, where river sand quarrying is banned. In other districts, including the coastal belt, limited sand mining is allowed. MSIL has plans to sell 36 lakh tonnes a year, and has entered into a five-year contract with a consortium of Malaysian firms.

The real estate sector currently uses M-sand. “M-sand suits our needs. Imported sand has just started coming in and we are yet to see how it will suit us,” said Confederation of Real Estate Developers’ Association of India (Bengaluru) secretary Adarsh Narahari.

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