Photo: Truckers in Bhutan

NRDCL rushes to stock up on sand for monsoon after losing time to lockdowns

The Natural Resources Development Corporation Limited  (NRDCL) is stocking up on sand before the monsoon season hits Bhutan. They have about 73,600 m3 or cubic meters (approximately 9,200 truckloads (TLs) of sand stocked so far. This is being done to meet the requirement for sand during the monsoon season. NRDCL keeps the sand stock in Tshokona, Wangdue during the winter months, as the water level is low enough for sand extraction.

“Yes, we have been doing it for many years now, and this year is no exception. The major supply of sand is from Wangdue, which constitutes more than 60 percent of the sand supply for the whole country. Sand from Wangdue caters to the requirements of about 11 dzongkhags (Thimphu, Paro, Haa, Punakha, Wangdue, Gasa, Tsirang, Dagana, Trongsa, Bumthang and Chukha). The stocking is usually done from November to March before the water level rises,” said the General Manager of the Mineral Resources Division, Dorji Wangmo.

The general manager added, “But this year, considerable time has been lost due to the lockdown since 16 January 2022. Nevertheless, we are making all efforts to make up for the lost time and trying to extract and stock as much possible. We are targeting to stock additional 1,000 truckloads before the monsoon season disrupts the extraction. Also, to supplement the sand supply, we have 6 sand dredging machines at Wangdue. These machines dredge sand from the river with the use of boats and are operated throughout the year, thus keeping up the sand supply even in summer. The six machines can dredge and supply approx.60-70 truckloads of sand per day.”

NRDCL also has sand extraction and supply sites in the eastern and southern dzongkhags.

Regarding how the pandemic has affected the NRDCL operations, Dorji Wangmo said, “As everyone knows, the pandemic has affected the construction sector, with many constructions put on halt. This has had a direct effect on the demand for sand. NRDCL supplied 318,714 m3 (39,839 TLs) and 325,861 m3 (40,731 TLs) sand in the years 2018 and 2019 (pre-COVID times) respectively from Wangdue alone, whereas in 2020, it dropped to 283,892 m3 (35,486 TLs) and in 2021, it further dropped to 245,421 m3 (30,677 TLs).”

The mismatch in demand and supply areas for sand was one of the challenges faced by NRDCL.

“There are no sand supply sites in places where the demand is high (example, Thimphu and Paro), whereas in places where there is no demand, there is abundant sand supply. Nevertheless, all efforts are made to ensure availability of sand, as much as possible by optimizing extraction, stocking and dredging with the use of the machines,” she continued.

NRDCL generated total revenue of Nu 100.664 mn from the sale of sand in 2021, as compared to revenue of Nu 189.288 mn in 2020. Overall sand sale across the country was 391,155.96 m3 (48,894 TLs) in 2021 as compared to 467,522.66 m3 (58,440 TLs) in 2020.

As of now, NRDCL has not received any complaints related to illegal sand sale.

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