September 1, 2008

Concern Expressed on Over-Use of Bhutan Riverbed Sand

Excerpt from report in English by the website of Bhutan's autonomous national newspaper Kuensel on 1 September

[by Ugyen Penjore] 1 September: The shortage of sand from riverbeds is going to grow, warns the Natural Resources Development Corporation (NRDC). This alarm comes when construction owners are already facing an acute shortage of riverbed sans, which is considered better in quality. NRDC believes that with the increase in construction activities and Punatsangchhu-I [hydroelectric project] taking off, the shortage will be felt more acutely.

According to NRDC officials, the shortage of sand was created because customers stopped using sand from Phuentsholing because of the drastic reduction in sand price at depots in Punakha and Wangduephodrang. NRDC's managing director, Sangay Gyaltsen, said that because of high demand, more sand is lifted from the riverbeds than is deposited every year. "We have to look for alternatives because there's not going to be enough," he said.

To ease the pressure on riverbed sand, NRDC is also encouraging people to use crushed sand, i.e., from stone quarries. The managing director said that crushed sand had been in use for many years and is as good as riverbed sand. "There's a notion that riverbed sand is better, but test results show that crushed sand is just as good," he said.

The standard quality control authority, under the Works and Human Settlement Ministry, is carrying out tests on crushed sand. An official from the material testing and research division said that crushed sand samples received from the Bjemina mines showed "satisfactory" results.

"It could be used for construction," said the official.

However, in an effort to mitigate the shortage, NRDC officials said that research is being carried out on making sand by crushing suitable rocks and washing them to ensure quality.

Sangay Gyaltsen said that arrangements had been made with private sector to lower the price of crushed sand. [passage omitted] NRDC had supplied about 14,000 truckloads of sand between January and August 2008.

Originally published by Kuensel website, Thimphu, in English 1 Sep 08.

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