Phurpa Lhamo | Wangdue

With an average of 60 truckloads every day, the sand demand has reached its lowest in Wangdue.

While all extraction and supply work has stopped with the nationwide lockdown since December 23, sand demand had started to decrease due to the pandemic prior to the lockdown.

Compared to 2019, as of mid-September sand demand had decreased by 61,799 cubic metre last year. Natural Resources Development Corporation Limited (NRDCL) supplied 338,102 cubic metre of sand in 2019.

According to Manager Mani Gyeltshen of NRDCL’s Shar Branch, the demand decreased by 7,725 in truckloads in 2020 compared to the preceding year.

He added that prior to the pandemic, nearly 150 truckloads of sand were loaded from various sand quarries in Wangdue. “We even went down to 26 truckloads in a day.”

Due to low demand, production also had to be slowed at the sand quarries.

“Because construction has been in full swing in the past years, we would have difficulty supplying, we even had backlogs. Normally we would take one week to supply to their demands,” Mani Gyeltshen said. “But now, if they book right now, we can supply it the next day.”

Today, supply has only been restricted to those with prior approval from the dzongkhag Covid-19 task force team.

With smart unlocking, which was implemented on January 6 in Wangdue, construction works in self-contained modes without frequent movement of vehicles and workers were allowed.  Transportation of materials not involving passage through yellow zone of Pelela was also allowed on a case-by-case basis.

While sand demand has decreased, NRDCL officials had advised people without financial issues to stock sand to avoid queuing in future when the demand increases.

“We even encourage those who aren’t affected much to stock and accumulate so that when the demands increase they needn’t have to stay in queue. And few are doing that,” Mani Gyeltshen said.

While the demand has decreased due to the pandemic, NRDCL expects the demand to increase in the coming days when the pandemic situation improves.

Mani Gyeltshen said that NRDCL was gearing for 2021.

“If pandemic eases, we will have a huge increase in demand.”

Sand extraction season begins in November and continues until monsoon approaches around April.

“Right now work has stopped due to lockdown, but we will begin work immediately after restriction eases,” Mani Gyeltshen said.

Apart from sand price revision in July last year, there are no changes in price due to the pandemic.

From eight sand quarries in Wangdue, quarry sand, stock sand, and dredge sand type are supplied to Thimphu, Paro, Wangdue, Haa and a few southern dzongkhags.

A majority of supply goes to Thimphu.