Registered landowners can now commercially trade sand extracted from their land.

The provision came into effect from January 1 this year with the implementation of the Department of Forest and Park Services’ new Forest and Nature Conservation Rules and Regulation of Bhutan 2017.

Under chapter 10 of the new regulation, surface collection from private registered land for trade purpose shall be allowed after obtaining environment clearance from the department.

However, according to Natural Resources Development Corporation Limited’s (NRDCL) production in-charge in Trashiyangtse, Gyem Dorji, the provision will have an adverse affect on the public.

Gyem Dorji raised the issue during the recent Trashiyangtse dzongkhag tshogdu and said that the provision has superseded the executive order where natural resources were nationalised.

“Sand and other natural resources were all nationalised as per the executive order of November 7, 2007 from the Prime Minister’s office,” he said. “The executive order stated that the operation and marketing of sand would be nationalised under the purview of the NRDCL.”

Gyem Dorji said that allowing private landowners to commercially trade the sand would drastically increase the price of sand. He said that after the nationalisation of sand, NRDCL brought down the price of the sand by almost 50 percent.

“Prior to November 2007, private individuals would charge Nu 9,000 to 12,000 per truckload in Thimphu. Until December last year, before the new rule came in, NRDCL charged about Nu 4,000 to 5,000 per truckload,” he said. “To construct a building in Thimphu, buying sand alone would cost about Nu 900,000. NRDCL brought down the price to about Nu 300,000.”

He added that the new rule has also affected NRDCL’s annual target to collect more than 3,000 truckloads of sand from Trashigang and Trashiyangtse dzongkhags.

“If private individuals are allowed to extract and sell the sand from their land, NRDCL will not be able to achieve it’s annual plan for 2017,” he said. The office has collected about 800 truckloads of sand so far from the two dzongkhags.

Chief forestry officer, Dendup Tshering, however, said that the new regulation would foster healthy competition in the market. “When there is more competition, the prices will automatically come down. There is no question of the price of sand shooting.”

He said that the rules have allowed private individuals to sell their sand upon completion of all necessary formalities. “There is nothing wrong in this since the rules are approved by the government and we are following the rules of the government of the day. I don’t see any problem here.”

Dendup Tshering said that prior to the implementation of the new rule, NRDCL was handed over with the commercial production of sand even on private lands. “Even now, huge commercial production of sand from private land is still being handed over to NRDCL. There is not much deviation from this process.”

One of the privately owned sand quarries in Chazam in Trashigang is still operated by NRDCL, said Dendup Tshering. “Having said that, if we go by the book, private individuals are allowed to sell their sand.  Therefore, the division has sought clarification from the department on this.”

He said that the division is awaiting clarification on whether a private landowner could commercially deal with large-scale production of sand from him own land. “Until the department clarifies on this, we have not allowed any private landowners to sell sand on a full scale commercial purpose.”

Meanwhile, NRDCL charges Nu 1,900 for a truckload of sand in the six eastern dzongkhags. The price is exclusive of the transportation cost.

Younten Tshedup | Trashigang