Tshering Namgyal | Mongar

With export restriction and domestic construction halted due to Covid-19 pandemic, the Natural Resources Development Corporation Limited (NRDCL) is struggling to sell sand and stone in the east.

The corporation’s regional manager (RM) in Mongar, Tandin Wangchuk, said more than 30,000 truckloads of sand and 6,500 truckloads of stones are in stock in its various sites and depots.

Of the unsold stock, 18,000 truckloads of sand are in Bangtar, Samdrupjongkhar, 8,000 truckloads in 18 sites along the banks of Sherichhu and Drangmechhu river, 3,000 and 1,500 truckloads of sand at Durungri and Khagari in Nganglam.

During the pre-pandemic times, NRDCL sold about 10,500 truckloads of sand in the eastern region annually.

Tandin Wangchuk said the demand for sands and stone dropped as constructions were stalled due to shortage of imported and cost escalation in transporting construction materials due to the pandemic.

He said Denchi new township in Pemagatshel with more than 150 plots was the main target but of 47 buildings that were required to complete by 2020, only three structures were completed. “Construction of other buildings are stalled in the absence of labourers.”

The regional manager also said there is no demand for sand as Kholongchhu is in infant stage with labour camp construction and it is not certain when Kuri-Gongri construction would begin.

Similarly, 3,000 and 3,500 truckloads of stones are in stock at two sites in Samdrupjongkhar and Nganglam, which were mainly for export.

However, NRDCL officials said the stones gathered through surface collection and dredging from three sites were stagnated after exporting about 4,000 truckloads in three months since its commencement from September to December, 2019.

Tandin Wangchuk said there is a huge demand for boulders from the border Assam state and Guwahati but they cannot export it.

He said three boulder extraction sites have the capacity to extract between 4,500 to 5,000 truckloads of stones in a year.

He also said NRDCL had also identified and demarcated 10 more sites along the river banks between Nganglam in Pemagatshel and Jomotsangkha in Samdrupjongkhar. “But we don’t know when we would extract it.”

NRDCL officials said except for criptomeria species and red oak timber, almost all the six depots in the eastern region have no timber in stock.

Criptomeria species are those that the government initiated mass plantation a few years ago in various locations, but later had to fell the trees due to alleged spreading of synopsis and rashes.

There is not much domestic demand for criptomeria timber for being softer but NRDCL sold 35,000cft at a lower rate to a private individual in Siliguri, India.

Officials said the same individual had also demanded the additional rest of the 36,000cft of timber in stock.

The timbers were collected from Yonphula and Wamrong in Trashigang and Rongmanchhu in Lhuentse but with no hope for the situation to get better any sooner, Tandin Wangchuk said the remaining timber was being transported to the Lingmethang depot since September 2.

The timbers would be sown in panelling size, preserve in the shed and sell them after making panels from the joinery in Lingmethang, which has higher demand in the local market.

Similarly, around 7,000cft of red oak extracted from Dongdechhu, Trashiyangtse, which were brought to the joinery in Lingmethang to sell after making into door and window frames and flooring as there is no demand for this hardest wood, which has a lifespan of over three centuries, in both log and sown form.

NRDCL’s Zhongar region in the east currently extracts about 200,000cft of timber reduced from 400,000cft in the recent times due to lack of demand in the region.

Edited by Tashi Dema