The Ministry of Environment and Forests (MoEF) has decided to lift the ban on sand mining in Ratnagiri and Sindhudurg districts of Maharashtra to provide relief to the realty sector. The districts do not fall under the Coastal Regulation Zone (CRZ).
The ministry will soon issue a notification in this regard. However, minister Jairam Ramesh said the ban will continue in the CRZ areas, including the Mumbai Metropolitan Region (MMR). The decision was announced after a meeting on infrastructure projects and sand mining with Maharashtra Chief Minister Prithviraj Chavan.
However, the industry is not happy with the minister’s announcement. “The decision to lift the ban in non-coastal areas will not benefit in bringing down the prices of houses and sand. If this policy continues construction and infra projects will be adversely affected. MMR needs 50,000 trucks of sand per day (2.5 brass per truck) but the supply is 25 to 50 per cent of the required quantity,” Sunil Mantri, president of Maharashtra Chamber of Housing Industry, told Business Standard.
“We had requested the government to allow dredging in a regulated manner in CRZ areas as well. It does not cause any harm to the environment.”
Mantri said MCHI had written to Ramesh and Chavan to allow sand dredging in the backwaters of MMR, most of which was affected following the revised CRZ norms came into place in January.
“Sand is crucial for construction and infra projects and transportation costs need to come down. If they allow sand dredging in MMR in CRZ areas, sand prices can come down to Rs 3,000 per brass (one brass is equal to 100 cubic feet) from Rs 7,000 to 8,000 per brass. Sand price had crossed Rs 12,000 per brass,” he said.
Yomesh Rao, director of YMS Consultants, echoed similar views: “Allowing dredging in Ratnagiri and Sindhudurg will not help in bringing down the price because the cost of transportation will be high. This step will not have any positive impact to overcome the shortage.”
However, the chief minister welcomed the MoEF’s move. “I had taken the issue up with the MoEF which has responded positively. This will give relief to the realty industry,” he said.
Mahendra K Shah, senior represenative of the Builders Association of IndiaI (Mumbai Centre) said the government should allow builders and contractors to use M-Sand – manufactured from rocks – and is considered a good alternative to sand from the river and sea. Extracting sand from the sea could lead to future erosion but the use of aggregate rock to make M-Sand is a viable option. This material is extensively used in Kerala, Tamil Nadu and Andhra Pradesh,” he added.