Irrespective of the concerns from the transporters, the Natural Resource Development Corporation (NRDCL) will be implementing the new sand supply system across the country starting next month.

The NRDCL also issued a notification yesterday stating that the corporation will take full ownership of sand collection and transportation. It states that approvals are given to construction owners and not transporters. To facilitate this, the customer service office in Thimphu and Sha region will remain open on Saturdays until noon.

Transporters, especially truckers are disappointed over the new system. They claim that transportation cost has been slashed from Nu 7,720 to 6,720 a truckload (8 cubic meters).

However, the NRDCL’s chief executive officer, Sonam Wangchuk said the Nu 7,720 was the transportation cost for landing at the then truck parking near the flyover bridge. “Since the truck parking is no more operational, transportation charges was calculated until Semtokha,” he said. This amounts to Nu 7,059 and following reduced fuel price, the cost dropped by Nu 339 to Nu 6,720.

Final transportation cost depended on the site as every distance beyond the 3km radius from Semtokha is on a kilometer basis.

Sonam Wangchuk said that fuel price of early January (Nu 53.42 for a litre of diesel) was taken into account, the drivers’ incentives were provisioned, a mileage of 2.7km a liter was considered and profit margin was kept. This is how the NRDCL determined the transportation cost, which is again compared to the local hire charges.

“In fact, we should be dealing with the clients and not the transporters,” he said. However, of late, truckers have been playing the role of sellers, in turn distorting the sand price. “This leads to hoarding and deflection causing shortage in the market and promoting black market,” he said. “The issue was discussed and the whole system was reviewed,” he said adding that the new system is to be fair to all stakeholders.

With the new system, the number of truckloads a day transporting sand dropped to 80-130 this month. “This is largely due to streamlining of process and actual identification of need areas,” he said.

In the past, during winter, which is the peak season, about 150-190 truckloads of sand was transported a day. In summer, it was about 65-70 truckloads.

A representative from the truckers, Thinley Dorji said that NRDCL always played on the transportation cost and that the royalty component was never altered.

He said that the number of trips is limited to two a week and the transportation cost barely covers their expenses. He said that government projects and companies owing their own fleet of trucks are not mandated to deposit the transportation cost, while private owners have to deposit the amount to NRDCL.

Truckers also complained of hassles in getting the transportation cost refunded, as they are issued cheques.

The CEO, however said that this was to make it more convenient for the clients who own trucks. An individual constructing a house and having a truck registered in his/her name need not deposit the transportation cost.

He said that flexibility has also been maintained in terms of clients choosing their transporters. “For those who don’t have any option, NRDCL have reserved trucks to transport sand,” he said.

On the royalty, the CEO said that the management has no authority as there is a national committee to review and decide the royalty. He however, indicated that the committee is working to review the royalty and a decision will be made soon.

In the earlier system, he said that truckers charge between Nu 13,000 to 16,000 a truckload and people go to the truck parking to buy sand instead of coming to NRDCL. Today, for the same truckload (8 cubic meters), customers will have to pay about Nu 8,429 until Semtokha including the Nu 1,725 royalty. The actual price of dredged sand is about Nu 273 per cubic meter.

The company, he said has also sought a special board approval to pay the truckers in cash for upto two trips. “Various options like MBoB and other electronic transfer were explored during a consultative meeting with the transporters,” he said.

Last year, 35,973 truckloads of sand were supplied from the Sha region. Month wise statistics show that December recorded the highest sand supplied ever since the NRDCL came into operation. “This could be because people knew that the new system was taking effect from January 2018,” an official said.

When the construction sector was booming in 2011 and 2012, the sand supply shot to 41,954 truckloads and 34,741.

About 60-65 percent of sand supply to 11 central and western dzongkhags is met from Wangdue. There are 259 registered truckers from Thimphu region and 120 from Wangdue region with the NRDCL today.

“From the common pool of trucks, each day we maintain a limit of 80-100 permits from Thimphu and 45 from Sha region,” the CEO said. “They will be supplied on first come first serve basis and the limit could be increased to 105 during peak season.”

While trucker claim that it is difficult for them to sustain with limited trips, sources said that the truckers are not solely dependent on sand supply. Truckers ferry timber, construction materials, stone aggregate, scrap, and other goods.

Tshering Dorji