Acute shortage of sand and a steep rise in price has forced builders and engineers to depend substantially on manufactured sand (M-sand) in Tiruchi.
Until recently, sand was the only option for plastering and concrete mixing. There were days when a load of two units of sand sourced from the Cauvery or Kollidam beds was available for ₹ 400 to ₹ 500 as it was available in plenty in the upper and lower reaches of the Cauvery in Tiruchi about 20 years ago. It shot up gradually over the period up to ₹ 30,000 per load (2 units). Though there is still a demand for river sand irrespective of the high rate, builders find it extremely difficult to source it as the Public Works Department had closed down most of sand reaches in Tiruchi and Karur districts due to stiff opposition from farmers and litigation against sand-quarrying.
Sourcing sand through bullock cart is the only option available to the builders. If they want to mobilise sand, they will have to wait for days together. Acute shortage of river sand, concern over exploitation of rivers for sand mining, litigation against sand quarrying and steep hike in prices have led the builders to shift their attention to M-sand and plastering sand (P-sand). Some builders, who began to use M-sand as a temporary measure, now prefer it.
“There are individual house constructors, who still prefer river sand. But, it is a tough task to source sand. We do not have options but to convince our customers to use manufactured sand,” says A. Selvakumar, a building contractor in Srirangam.
Builders say that there is no problem in sourcing M-sand. It is cheaper. A load (four units) of M-sand is available for ₹ 15,000 in Tiruchi. The rate of P-sand hovers around ₹ 16,000 for a load.
P. Dharmar, a supplier of construction materials in Thiruvanaikoil, said that since the rate of river sand was more than double to that of M-sand, buyers invariably preferred M-sand. Many builders and engineers had switched over to M-sand. It had become an organised trade. It was available in plenty in Karur, Perambalur and Pudukottai districts, he said.