Sand extraction by NRDCL hampered due to monsoon rains in face of three fold demand

The Natural Resources Development Corporation Limited (NRDCL) is taking steps to address the shortfall in sand supply with demand up by three folds from the previous year because of increasing construction activity.

“Although we increased our stock by almost two-folds from the previous year to maintain supply during the monsoon, when collection is low, our stock of around 10,800 truckloads was exhausted very quickly,” said officiating Chief Executive Officer of NRDCL, Sonam Chophel. “It resulted in a hue and cry in the market and indicates the increasing number of construction activities that is taking place in the country.”

Sonam Chophel said they’ve also introduced and procured additional sand dredging machines at the Wangdue sand extraction sites. “We have four dredging machines in Wangdue and one in the east,” he said. “Earlier extraction had to be halted during monsoon and the only option was through stocking.”

The corporation, after holding numerous consultative meetings with its board members and other relevant stakeholders, has also identified few viable sand extraction sites. One identified site is in Dagana and work is work to establish road connectivity. The other identified sites are in Paro and in other parts of Wangdue.

“We are still exploring for more feasible sites but it takes time to get clearances and fulfill other formalities and we also need cooperation from the community to establish the extraction sites,” Sonam Chophel said.

The corporation plans to invest more dredging machines and is also at the initial stage of exploring and studying sand compaction, which is making sand out of crushed stones. It is also experimenting with artificial trenching process, whereby a barricade is drawn and when flood occurs, the sand sediments are deposited.

Although illegal sale of sand has been largely reduced after NRDCL introduced the new sand application form and sand-issuing coupon, the complete suppression of such practice is still a question. To fully curb hoarding and the black market, NRDCL is in the process of framing policies to take full ownership in the transportation of the sand. “Our main mandate is to supply natural resources to the people at an affordable rate and with consistency, so we have plans to take full ownership for the transportation of sand by streamlining the registration of trucks,” the officiating CEO said. “This will not only bring down the prices but will also contribute revenue of the government.”

People now prefer dredged sand, which are finer and needs no further sieving. Dredged sand cost Nu 2,190 a truckload. Sonam Chophel said that people are becoming more aware of the advantage of the dredged sands which can be fully utilized without any wastage and that the demand is increasing.

The sand dredging machines cost Nu. 1.5 – 2 million and are procured from Kolkata, India. The machines have been fabricated according to the site conditions in Bhutan and are environment friendly.

The increasing water level of the Punatshangchu because of the has greatly affected sand dredging works and around 40 to 50 trucks can be seen queuing near the bank.

About 65% of the sand supply is transported from the Sha extraction sites in Wangdue to cater to the western region of Thimphu and Paro. Sonam Chophel said that in the absence of supply from the prominent sites, people also have the option to avail sand from Phuentsholing and Gelephu where they have ready stocks available, which are further away and will incure higher transportation costs.

In an average, 100 truckloads of sand are being transported to the western regions and Nu. 69.313 mn has been earned in revenue last year.

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