Thukten Zangpo 

There is no sand supply in Thimphu, Paro, and Haa since February 28 despite the government allowing construction activities to work in containment mode during lockdowns.

The operator and marketer of sand, Natural Resources Development Corporation of Bhutan Limited, and Punakha District Covid-19 Task Force (DC19TF), said the emerging community cases caused the supply disruption.

After the Covid-19 cases were detected in Wangdue, the supply of sand from Rinchengang site was on halt since January 16. Supply continued from Tshokona site under Barp Gewog in Punakha until February 28 for Thimphu, Paro, and Haa. These two sites are the largest sand supplier in the western region.

A sand transporter, Tandin Dorji, said “There is no sand supply in Thimphu and I am receiving dozens of calls demanding sand every day.” He asked if the government could facilitate and allow sand supply during the lockdown.

Tandin Dorji also suggested that the government could come up with a driver-switch modality at Menchuna or Chasagang in Lobesa, similar to Sorchen, or provide them with an escort.

Neten Wangdi, a contractor, said that the sand supply in the construction sites is a problem with the lockdown in Punakha and Wangdue. “If the NRDCL could work in containment mode and supply sand, it would ease the supply issues for the contractors.”

Branch Manager of NRDCL’s Sha branch office, Mani Gyeltshen, said that with Punakha transitioning to the green zone on February 26, the supply of sand was resumed.

However, Mani Gyeltshen added that it was discontinued from March 1 because an issue on escort arose and the supply of sand towards Thimphu, Paro, and Haa was temporarily put on halt.

While he said that the supply of stocked sand from Tshokona under Barp Gewog to other places also completely came to halt on March 9 after his office staff was tested positive.

Punakha DC19TF put Barp Gewog under lockdown with the detection of three cases in Metsina town area on March 9.

“The positive case and contacts are in quarantine and the office is planning to bring in another set of workers from Wangdue,” Mani Gyeltshen said, adding that it has also affected both in terms of financial and physical stock, not just the customers.

He also said that most of the sand demand comes from Thimphu, and the day visitor notification will make it easier to supply sand.

Punakha Dzongda, Thuji Tshering, said that unless the Barp Gewog is cordoned-off, they will not be allowed to pick up sand. “There are emerging positive cases from Lobesa and we have to look at it differently from the national guidelines.”

He added that if the concerned parties can bring a proposal, then DC19TF can look at it and decide to allow or not allow based on facts on the ground. “If there is an e-pass and RT-PCR negative test result, we can also facilitate it but NRDCL also has to be ready.”

For the driver switching modality, Thuji Tshering said that the directives have to come from National Covid-19 Task Force.

Construction Association of Bhutan’s executive director, Tshering Younten, said the association has scheduled to conduct a meeting with the government on March 15 to discuss the issue among others.