Sand shortage hikes cost of highways
New Delhi: The increasing price of sand and acute shortage of the key construction material in states like Uttar Pradesh, Rajasthan, Madhya Pradesh, Tamil Nadu, Karnataka and Kerala has pushed up the cost of highway construction. Road transport minister Nitin Gadkari said on Thursday that in some cases the “cost of cement is almost on a par with sand” and is leading to delays in construction.
“We have decided to allow bituminous road rather than building cement concrete ones where the cost is 30% less than that of cement stretches,” Gadkari said while sharing the details of his two-day review of all highway projects costing more than Rs 100 crore.
In fact, private players in Karnataka, Tamil Nadu and Kerala have been importing sand from Philippines, Indonesia and Malaysia to meet their requirement.
Sources said the proportionate cost of cement and the sand used for construction of concrete roads has become the same in the past couple of years due to stay on mining by courts in their bid to check rampant illegal activities. Industry sources said the cost of sand has increased by 100-150% in the past two years depending on the source of the availability and transport cost.
Some of the highway builders TOI talked to said if earlier they used to get a bag of sand at Rs 50 in Rajasthan, it’s about Rs 100 and in MP it has gone up from nearly Rs 60 to more than Rs 100. In UP, this has increased from Rs 40 a bag to now about Rs 80.
Meanwhile, to beat the 2019 poll schedule, the highways ministry has squeezed the deadline of nearly three dozen projects by 2-3 months. “We want to complete at least 300 projects by March, before the poll code of conduct kicks in,” Gadkari said.
Responding to a question from TOI whether shortening the deadline was to derive political mileage, he added, “We do not build roads motivated by political interest...whatever is to happen will happen in the elections but this country should develop whether there is a government of BJP or Congress or any other party. ... Those who cast vote in favour of BJP will benefit and those who do not cast will also benefit.”