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Malaysian Sand Creates Storm in Tamil Nadu

Chennai:

Port Wings News Network:

With the 55,000-odd tonnes of sand imported from Malaysia by a Pudukottai-based private firm now held up inside the V O Chidambaranar Port (Tuticorin) for legal issues, it has clearly re-ignited the issue of shortage of sand, one of the prime raw materials for construction industry,  in this part of the country. However, a section in the people has questioned the origin of the imported sand, as Malaysia has a ban on export of sand from the country.

LEGAL EXPORT, SAYS MALAYSIA

While there has been confusing reports of origin of sand from Malaysia or Cambodia, the Malaysian government has confirmed that it has given approval for two companies to export sand to India.

In a statement, Malaysia’s Natural Resources and Environment Minister Wan Junaidi Tuanku Jaafar said that the companies had sent 50,000 tonnes of sand to Tamil Nadu. “For the state of Karnataka, negotiations are still ongoing,” he added in a statement.

Wan Junaidi said the cabinet had given special approval for sand to be exported overseas. The special approval was given on a case-by-case basis.

IMPORT OF SAND FROM MALAYSIA BEST OPTION

According to multiple reports in media that a cargo vessel hauling river sand from Malaysia made its maiden call at V.O. Chidambaranar Port, Tuticorin, few days ago and successful offloaded it for local transportation.

However, the imported sand has been denied permission for movement to the destined consignee by the local authorities from the port premises citing legal issues. According to Section 38-C (1) a of the Tamil Nadu Minor Mineral Concession Rules, 1959, nobody is allowed to transport sand without a valid transport permit issued by the Public Works Department or without a sale slip or licence duly authenticated by the taluk headquarters  — Deputy Tahsildar of the jurisdiction. Besides, sand was also not allowed to be stocked for sale at any place without a valid licence. The delay has caused ripples among the industry stakeholders.

Quoting Collector Mr N. Venkatesh, the Hindu daily reported that the Tuticorin district administration has sent a detailed letter to the VOC Port Trust management highlighting the legal issue involved in this regard.

The daily report also revealed that from the import shipment that arrived here on 21 October, only around 1,400 tonnes of sand were allowed for movement until the local authorities sent the reminder letter forcing them to adhere to the law of the land on import of sand.

River sand mining operation in Pinang Tunggal

INDUSTRY UPBEAT OVER SAND IMPORT

Hailing the sand import, Mr Henry Daniel, Regional Chairman, Federation of All Civil Engineer Associations of Tamil Nadu and Pondicherry, said that it would certainly curb illegal sand mining and, more importantly, natural resources (in Tamil Nadu) would be protected. Furthermore, it will also help rein in on sand mafia in the state.

ACUTE SHORTAGE OF RIVER SAND IN TAMIL NADU

t may be noted that for the last six years, the construction industry in the state has seen a major downfall owing to acute shortage of river sand, the key material for construction. The Tamil Nadu State government’s ban on sand mining here few years ago to protect the natural resources from waning also triggered a huge demand for sand. Though marine sand has been promoted as a substitute for river sand, consumers were not content with its quality. Moreover, its quality standards could hardly be ascertained.

ELIMINATE HURDLES IN TRANSPORTING SAND: JOE VILLAVARAYAR

Commenting on the development, Mr J. P. Joe Villavarayar, President, Tuticorin Ship Agents Association, said the (Tamil Nadu) government should eliminate hurdles in transporting such imported cargo and, in fact, encourage traders to bring in such natural resources in. He said the construction industry would thrive and the role of middlemen in exploiting natural resources would be eliminated.

MALAYSIA SAND RAISES HOPE FOR FULFILLING SHORTAGE

The import of sand has raised hope for city developers in finding new avenues to tide over the shortage of river sand for construction work.

The Times of India daily quoting people involved in building industry stated that it (import) would help in a big way to reduce sand rates in the state. The report further said that a private firm based in Pudukottai has imported the consignment comprising 55,000 tonnes of sand from Malaysia.

LESS COST FOR IMPORTED SAND BOOSTS DEVELOPERS

The cost of imported sand is estimated at Rs 60 per cubic feet, the sources said adding that river sand sourced from sand quarries in Tamil Nadu is sold anywhere between Rs 110 and Rs 120.

Mr S Ramaprabhu, Honorary secretary of Builders Association of India, Southern Centre, Chennai, said that the import has boosted the efforts of developers, who are hit by non-availability of adequate sand for constructions, towards importing river sand from South-East Asian countries including Malaysia and Cambodia.

“One consignment of 55,000 tonnes can cater for a week’s requirement of sand in Chennai and peripheries. Sand could be delivered at the construction site at Rs 80 per cubic feet as an additional Rs 20 should be added for transporting from the port to respective destinations,” he said.

STATE GOVERNMENT SHOULD FACILITATE THE INITIATIVE

The state government should facilitate the initiative as it would be reduce the dependence on our riverbeds leading to environmental exploitation, he added. “The Tamil Nadu government must take a cue from neighbouring Karnataka as the latter has already taken up the initiative to source sand from foreign countries,” he said.

NEW AVENUE FOR SHIPPING BUSINESS

According to exim community, if the imports are free from legal clutches, it will not only help the Tamil Nadu state as well as the South Indian states to help tide over the shortage of sand, but also open a new avenue for business for them. It is a known fact that India has ran out of sand resources and hence they become costly here. For a country like Malaysia or Cambodia, the sources for river sand are abundant and it will help the country to create new revenue system for them. India needs to import sand and if the countries are allowing consignments in shortest possible time, it will help the local construction industry to come out of the sand crisis.

As per Foreign Trade Policy 2015-2020, natural sand import is free subject, but with a condition –as the government said that the Import Policy of ‘Natural Sands’ is revised and they will be subject to Plant Quarantine (Regulation of Import into India) Order, 2003.

Besides, the Custom duty after implementing GST for natural sand (HS CODE; 2505) are BCD 10%  IGST 5% plus cess etc and the net tax will be around 18%. Despite these 18 % tax, it would be much lesser in cost when compared to locally available sand.

MALAYSIANS ANGRY OVER SAND EXPORT

Sahabat  Alam Malaysia (SAM) has expressed its shock on the latest news export of first batch of Malaysian sand to Tamil Nadu. The export of sand went ahead despite protest and criticism from various NGOs in Malaysia, when the issue was made public a few months back.

SAM had written to several Ministries to get clarification regarding the export of sand from Malaysia, but have yet to receive a response on this matter.

“This is a sad episode for the country given how Malaysia’s own natural resources has been sacrificed by a few greedy local businesses. Followers of this issue will be aware that the reason behind India’s decision to import Malaysia’s sand is largely due to the former’s decision to protect its own depleting natural sand reserves,” said a statement.

They urged the Malaysian Government pertinently the Minister for Natural Resources and Environment (NRE), Datuk Dr. Haji Wan Junaidi Tuanku Jaafar to seriously look and resolve this matter with immediate effect.

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