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Please estimate and map supply and demand of sand for our country's growth plans

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Sand is considered the most easily available source of natural aggregate for construction, but also has numerous other uses; although plentiful and widely distributed, it is not infinite and today, we are running out.

It is tragic to note that, while NGOs and activists are suffering and even dying for their dedication to the cause of environmental maintenance, sand mafias continue to become stronger, to over-ride all laws and continue to loot precious natural resources with impunity. State apathy to create a robust policy to regulate and provide minor minerals, based on their adequate and scientific assessment of demand and supply is encouraging the proliferation of sand mafias. NGOs will continue to be punished for their commitment till the State wakes up to create a proper policy that meets the genuine requirements of roads, airports, ports, bridges, residential and commercial constructions and match it up with the availability of sand, stone and other aggregates.

A complete mapping of available sand stocks in our country has never been undertaken and we do not have any studies documenting the availability of raw materials for projects in the Development and Regional Plans. Already, violent mafias have taken control of undocumented raw materials and are mining unsustainable quantities of sand and stone to execute projects. Government policies regularize illegally mined sand and allow them to easily enter the system through auctions of seized sand.

The requirement of sand per square foot of construction can be easily worked out. While it is difficult for an NGO to guess quantitative requirements as the sand quality and end use of construction will have a role to play in this calculation, experts and municipal corporations MMRDA CIDCO MSRDC MHADA, MADC, MHADA are competent authorities to offer both the areas already constructed during the precious decades and the sand quantities consumed. This calculation could be used to calculate prospective construction as well. Aggregate requirements for all proposed projects should be calculated and declared before any project proposals are cleared, along with the proposed source of the raw materials.

Sand resources are either rives, creek beds, beaches or agricultural land. We have already over exploited all of these. We require urgent mapping of this resource, a study which should be taken up by the Government immediately. In the absence of the mapping and earmarking of potential supplies of sustainable sand and/or other aggregates, the mafia will continue to denude them and cause irreversible damage.

It is vital to look at possible alternatives. Some alternatives are already in use while others have been used experimentally or in small projects. While some of the alternatives, including stone quarried from mountains are major sources of environmental damage, other alternatives like recycled materials help protect from solid waste, air and water pollution. Environmentally friendly solutions like recycling require urgent mainstreaming.

It is imperative for the Government to create a policy mechanism which maps the supply and demand for sand to stop long term environmental damage and take responsibility for the natural reserves of sand which belong to the people of this country. The absence of such a policy makes the Government complicit in support of the sand mafia.



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