Tribune News Service

Ruchika M Khanna

Chandigarh, October 4

The construction of major and state highways, bridges and government buildings has been halted due to the acute shortage of sand and gravel in the country.

Rate of construction materials

  • Sand Rs 5,000 – Rs 5,200 per 100 cubic feet
  • Gravel Rs 4,500 – 5,000 per 100 cubic feet

With mining operations in most clusters still closed, a huge demand-supply gap remains.

The fact that the state government has imposed a new royalty of Rs 2 per cubic feet (plus surcharge) on good earth if it is excavated for commercial use (construction of basements, roads, highways and commercial buildings etc.) also escalates the cost of construction , making it difficult for the National Highways Authority of India (NHAI) and the Public Works Department to proceed with their projects.

NHAI officials in a meeting with Chief Minister Bhagwant Mann today reportedly raised the issue of shortage of material forcing them to procure it from neighboring states and how the new royalty has escalated the cost of construction of various national highways in the state.

Sources said the NHAI officials had sought a royalty waiver as it would increase the cost of all their projects in Punjab by Rs 1,500 crore. Although government officials reportedly said that this could not be ruled out for a specific entity, the prime minister assured them that he would try to work out a solution.

It may be mentioned that many of the ongoing construction works undertaken by OSL have also slowed down drastically due to non-availability of sand and gravel.

NSR Minister Harbhajan Singh ETO said he hoped the supply of sand and gravel would be restored soon and projects would speed up.

Although the AAP government amended the mining policy (the current policy, introduced by the previous government, is in place till February 2023) in August, of the seven mining clusters in the state, only three (Pathankot-Gurdasapur, Ludhiana-Navanshahr and Ropar-Anandpur Sahib) ) were operational.

The contractors for the remaining four clusters abandoned their contracts midway. The mining operation also remained closed during the monsoons. Additionally, only limited mining operations have resumed in the above three clusters, as environmental clearance has not been obtained for various quarries.

“We are trying to restart mining in the Moga and Fazilka clusters with our machines. Environmental impact assessment authorities have been asked to quickly grant permission for mining operations. A survey of possible mining locations in each area and post-monsoon data is also compiled. Once this is done, we will have more mines available for extracting sand and gravel,” said a top officer of the Mining Department.

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