Sand short­age hikes cost of high­ways

The Times of India (New Delhi edition) - - TIMES NATION - Dipak.Dash@ times­group.com

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.”

Nitin Gad­kari

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