Construction work on projects worth thousands of crores of rupees in Jharkhand has been affected by a sand crisis caused by the on-again, off-again auction policy.
River sand is a product of natural weathering of rocks over a period of millions of years. It is mined from the river beds. River sand is becoming a scarce commodity now. River (Fresh water) sand is far superior for construction purposes than any other sand used in construction.
Due to the crisis, prices of river sand have gone up to Rs.7,000 per truck from Rs.3,000 per truck before the current round of auctions started and then halted due to protests. This is because the raw material has to be brought from outside the state.
It is unfortunate that the Jharkhand state is facing a sand crisis and projects worth more than Rs.3,000 crore have been affected. This crisis has been created by the state government. It is the duty of the state government to facilitate licenses and environmental clearances. Construction work has been badly affected in the state.
The Karnataka government has attempted a rare balancing act between the needs of rivers and buildings for sand. This conflict between the environment and development was addressed by issuing an order to the public works department (PWD) on September 16, 2013 mandating the civil body to use only manufactured sand (M-sand) instead of river sand for all its building activities. A move widely seen as a good initiative aimed to plug the demand-supply deficit in order to ease pressure on sand mining. Shifting of PWD, one of the major consumers of sand in the state, to M-sand is bound to ease prices of sand in the market and also curb illegal sand mining. Point to be noted here is that M-sand is nothing but crushed rock, that too mostly granite. Though it yields higher quality concrete, but the questions one needs to ask are these: Are we really solving the environmental concerns? Isn’t it a misplaced attempt as rocks are also minerals that need to be conserved?
As humans we’re a race that takes everything for granted, and that’s evident in the way we’ve recklessly consumed most of our natural resources. Take a look around, we haven’t spared much in the name of development. Whether it’s coal, water, oil or even natural gas, we’ve managed to diminish it all. But did you know that sand falls into this list as well? That it’s an extremely essential natural resource being used everywhere, right from cement, concrete, glass, computer parts, smart phones, toothpaste, cosmetics, paper, paint, tires and so much more! But sand isn’t an unlimited resource. It’s in fact one of the most consumed and underestimated resources in the world and with 70 per cent of world beaches disappearing, we haven’t the slightest idea what the repercussions will be in the future.
Ranchi city in Jharkhand State receives sand from only Kanchi river now. Earlier sands of two more rivers were used for construction. Now in both rivers the deposits of sands have been affected due to over exploitation especially of Jumar river flowing north of city.
Sand being so in demand (it’s fuelling the construction boom everywhere), the industry has already consumed most of it available in quarries and rivers. Sand from the deserts cannot be used for construction as the grains are rounded and polished (due to winds) and do not stick together, which is essential for construction. The industry has no option and is turning to the sea and beaches to meet its insatiable demand. Illegal sand mining is already underway in 70 countries around the world.
Sand is not a sustainable resource and though it regenerates, it is being consumed faster than its rate of creation. It takes 25,000 years to create sand from the mountains and sand stone, which breaks down and flows down little streams, down rivers to deltas and then gets carried to the ocean by the waves and tides. Much of the sand never makes it to the ocean because of dams which trap the sand. There are about 8,45,000 dams in the world. In the US alone there are around 80,000 dams. In China, it is estimated that by 2020 not one river will reach the sea. Thanks to these dams, much of the sand that could reach the sea won’t do so.
The construction industry requires massive amounts of sand for its projects. Despite some legal framework prohibiting sand mining in most states, the industry gets most of the sand by dredging rivers’ earthen materials beyond a safe capacity. In almost every river where it is viable, the ‘sand mafia’ purge the depths for profitable sand, amounting to an illegal yearly turnover of Rs. 1000 crore. Despite its illegality, sand mining is perpetuated by various social and economic dilemmas. First, it brings revenue to state government and panchayats, which paves the way for corruption and conflict. Thus, relationships between local politicians, contractors, and bureaucrats emerge to create a power nexus capable of deterring community-based resistance. The players in this nexus are infamously termed the’ sand mafia,’ by the media.
The case of Maharashtra epitomizes this phenomenon. In September 2010, the Bombay High Court banned the extraction of sand, due to its adverse environmental effects and detriment to water supply. If this ruling had stuck, the real estate industry would have suffered a loss of Rs. 2,000 crore. The High Court asked the government to come up with a new policy on sand mining after the court appointed Indian Institute of Technology submitted a report. On 20 Oct 2010, State cabinet approved a new sand mining policy that empowers communities to have a say on sand mining in their localities. The policy also bans use of suction pumps in dredging but fails to ban mechanized dredging. Moreover, the High Court directed the Maharashtra government not to award any contract or allow any sand excavation to commence across the state "until and unless" it first obtained environmental clearance as contemplated in its latest policy decision.
The environmental reasons for this ban and others across India are numerous. Sand acts as an aquifer, and as a natural carpet on the bottom of the river. Stripping this layer leads to downstream erosion, causing changes in channel bed and habitat type, as well as the deepening of rivers and estuaries, and the enlargement of river mouths. As the river system lowers, local groundwater is affected, which leads to water scarcities aggravating agriculture and local livelihoods. In terms of legal measures, ground water shortages have been noted as the patent problem with river sand mining. Less considered in legal action, but centrally relevant, experts also note substantial habitat and ecological problems, which include “direct loss of stream reserve habitat, disturbances of species attached to stream bed deposits, reduced light penetration, reduced primary production, and reduced feeding opportunities”. key issues have not been resolved.
The rivers in Kerala have been subject to significant such degradation, and serve as a good overview of the aforementioned problems. Major rivers such as the Pampa, Manimala, and Achankovil have been subject to such non-discretionary dredging that there has been a sharp fall in ground water table levels. According to one study, indiscriminate mining has lowered the Pampa an average of three to four metres, and up to six metres in some areas.
Sand smuggling is continuing unabated in Krishna district despite the ‘preventive measures’ by the official machinery since the sand mafia is enjoying the support of the politicos.
While the government stopped the sand auctions due to legal and administrative issues as well as pressure from the politicos for more than a year, the sand mafia is minting money by transporting the sand from Krishna river using trucks, mini trucks, passenger auto-rickshaws and even bullock carts on both sides of the river Krishna in Krishna and Guntur districts.
Nearly 40 sand reaches are located along the Krishna river in the district from Jaggaiahpet mandal upstream of Prakasam barrage to downstream of the river in Avanigadda mandal in Diviseema.
Sand smuggling is a regular phenomenon in Ibrahimpatnam, Kanchikacharla, Nandigama, Chandarlapadu, Jaggaiahpet, Penamaluru, Thotlavalluru, Challapalli, Ghantasala, Pamarru and Avanigadda mandals of Krishna district.
Besides, sand is also smuggled from rivulets of Munneru and Tammileru in Krishna district. The officials are facing a challenging task of preventing the illegal sand quarrying. Most of the illegal sand extracted from the reaches is used for construction activity particularly in the construction of buildings, houses, and government projects.
In the Eastern Uttar-Pradesh, mechanized sand mining has resulted in soil erosion and turned thousands of acres of land infertile and sand mafias are in control of rivers like Chhoti Gandak, Gurra, Rapti and Ghaghara.
Indiscriminate sand extraction is likely to create environmental problems in future. The contractors who get the rights for quarrying are exceeding their limits in extracting more sand deep into the river beds.
This will create many environmental problems in future.
A worldwide sand rush is taking place. Sand is bagged by divers on the Maldives, it is towed from beaches to trucks by mules in Morocco, excavated from heavenly beaches by machines in the Philippines. In Indonesia dredge boats suck it up from the bottom of the sea, in Vietnam from the river Con. In Sierra Leone workers excavate every grain from local beaches, while on the other side of the Atlantic, in the Caribbean, sand thieves steal entire beaches unnoticed.
Sand is a key raw material for the construction business. Building requires tons of sand. Armoured concrete is two-thirds sand. The construction of a house costs on average two hundred tons of sand. Thirty thousand tons are needed for a one-kilometre stretch of motorway; twelve million tons for a nuclear plant. After water, sand is the most-used material in the world.
Sand for Construction
Sand is classified as: Fine Sand (0.075 to 0.425 mm), Medium Sand (0.425 to 2 mm) and Coarse Sand (2.0 to4.75 mm). However this classification of sand is further has types of sand in particular and on that basis only they are being incorporated in the construction. Read out the detailing of the types of sand:
Pit Sand (Coarse sand)
Pit sand is classified under coarse sand which is also called badarpur in common language. This type of coarse sand is procured from deep pits of abundant supply and it is generally in red-orange colour. The coarse grain is sharp, angular and certainly free from salts etc which is mostly employed in concreting.
River sand is procured from river streams and banks and is fine in quality unlike pit sand. This type of sand has rounded grains generally in white-grey colour. River sand has many uses in the construction purpose such as plastering.
As the name suggest, sea sand is taken from seas shores and it is generally in distinct brown colour with fine circular grains. Sea sand is avoided for the purpose construction of concrete structure and in engineering techniques because it contains salt which tends to absorb moisture from atmosphere and brings dampness. Eventually cement also loses its action when mixed with sea sand that is why it is only used for the local purpose instead of structural construction.
There are different standards for the construction purpose which must be checked and considered for the better construction. The requirement according to which sand is chosen should be like:
- For plastering purpose the overall fine sand used must not be less than 1.5 while silt is preferred to not less than 4 percent.
- For brick work fine sand used must not be less than 1.2 to 1.5 and silt is preferred is 4 percent generally.
- Concreting work require coarse sand in modulus of 2.5 to 3.5 with not less than 4 percent silt content.
Like any other material, there are certain features that determine the quality of sand. Good quality sand should not possess more than 4% of silt content. It should have natural and crushed stone sand. It must be free from organic matter and other dirt particles.
Forty percent of Morocco’s sand trade involves illegal sand that is excavated and immediately sold on construction sites. There, it is used unprocessed to make concrete, a guarantee for future problems. The Moroccan government fears that most of its country’s beaches are being transformed into a moonscape.
Singapore – With a booming economy, it has been accused of importing illegally dredged sand from neighbouring states and smuggling sand from poorer neighbouring countries to expand its coast line.
Many islands of Indonesia have vanished.
USA- Sand mining in the USA has resulted in erosion and a collapse of beachfront houses and properties. With beaches disappearing, many places like Florida are artificially putting sand back onto the beaches to attract tourists, but this not been fruitful
Maldives – Many islands have disappeared, there’s been a loss of livelihood and rising water levels Dubai has extensively used and extensively exhausted its own sand resources to build artificial beaches and in construction, etc. Dubai and many other such countries are buying and importing sand.
India - After China and the United States, India has the world’s largest construction business.
India has a very strong sand mafia which works in nexus with builders and politicians, especially in areas like Navi Mumbai, and coastal districts of Thane, Raigad, Sindhudurg and Ratnagiri and Gujarat and Goa. Sand mining and dredging is rampant despite all directives against it.