At the meet-the-editors programme in Thimphu yesterday, Prime Minister Tshering Tobgay said that he has asked relevant agencies to form a task force to review the recently-introduced system for supply of sand from Wangdue.

About 100 truck operators have requested the government in writing to withdraw the new system, which requires transactions of sand to be routed through the Natural Resources Development Corporation Limited (NRDCL) beginning January 1.

While introducing the new system, the NRDCL also slashed the cost of transportation from Wangdue to Simtokha to Nu 6,772 per truck from Nu 7,059.

However, the government and the NRDCL seem to agree on the need to route transactions of sand through the NRDCL.

The prime minister said that the issues related the cost of transportation and truck owners’ ability to earn a profit with the revised rate would be reviewed. Truckers want construction companies to directly place requirement to them and not through the NRDCL and the transportation cost increased.

Relevant agencies, Prime Minister Tshering Tobgay said, need to discuss and resolve the issue in such a way that neither consumers nor truck owners are affected.

“We need to review it if the truck owners are incurring losses (as a result of the price revision). At the same time, sand should be available at a reasonable price for our people,” he said.

Prime minister was of the view that truck owners must earn some profits while keeping the price reasonable. “Truck owners who have approached me said they are incurring losses.”

He said the government would not let the price escalate and that the transportation cost was reduced as a result in fuel price change three months back. The benefit of the price decrease, he said, should trickle down to the people.

He added that hoarding sand and selling it at a higher price is illegal.

He said that relevant agencies needed to discuss whether sale of sand by transport operators was illegal. “In my view, such a practice is illegal and should not be allowed.”

CEO of the NRDCL, Sonam Wangchuk, said the new system was introduced keeping in mind that sand was a national resource that should be utilised in the most efficient and sustainable way.

According to NRDCL, buyers should apply for sand at NRDCL offices and deposit the cost of sand along with the transportation charges. Transporters registered with the NRDCL will deliver sand and no customers are allowed to arrange their own transporters.

MB Subba