For too long has its price been held in the stranglehold of unscrupulous transporters

NRDCL: If you don’t find any sand laden trucks at the Thimphu truck parking, it’s because several new measures are in place to curb illegal sale of sand, especially in the capital.

After years of complaints of inconsistent sand prices, mainly in Thimphu, the National Resources Development Corporation limited (NRDCL) since December last year initiated some changes in the sand supply system.

The corporation introduced a new sand application form, sand-issuing coupon, and applicants have to sign an agreement that the sand is for self-consumption alone.

It has also revamped the system of registering trucks to transport sand, after signing legally binding agreements with the corporation.

Although only five percent of customers have used the 46 trucks registered with the corporation to transport sand quarried in Wangdue to Thimphu, officials said the system was working.

In more than three months, of the total 5,242 truckloads of sand supplied, 45 customers used the registered trucks to transport 259 truckloads of sand across Thimphu.

The registered trucks charge Nu 7,200 for a truckload to ferry sand until the Thimphu truck parking area.

NRDCL’s marketing general manager Deo Kumar Biswa said it was not compulsory for customers to use the registered trucks if customers have their own arrangements.

“However, every customer is informed about the existence of our registered trucks, and the applicable charges for transportation to take informed decision,” Deo Kumar Biswa said.

Customers are informed of the choice when they come to collect their sand approval document from the office.  Some use their own trucks, while others hire from family and friends.

The new sand application form is to ensure that only those with proper construction approvals avail the material.

In order to make judicious use of the scarce resource, Deo Kumar Biswa said the one-time quantity and validity to lift the approved quantity within the validity period is also captured, so that bulk requisitions are discouraged and hoarding avoided.

A sand coupon is issued to streamline the proper tracking of sand supply and delivery to the intended customers.

“The coupon will capture all essential information of the customer, the quantity of sand approved, the destination, name of truck drivers and the rate for transporting sand,” he said.

The corporation now signs agreements with customers to ensure that the sand taken for self-consumption is not misused.  Similarly, the registered truck drivers and owners sign undertakings to not sell the sand illegally.

These measures are taken, officials said, to control unnecessary stocking of sand by some individuals to charge exorbitant rates to customers.

It was adopted after the corporation discussed the issue of inconsistent sand price in the capital with a committee comprising officials from the Bhutan Chamber of Commerce and Industry, Ministry of Economic Affairs and Road Safety and Transport Authority, among others.

“All those measures were aimed at making sand affordable to the end users,” NRDCL officials said.

The corporation collected feedback from customers, who were mostly appreciative of the move of introducing a sand transportation system.

“They’d been paying exorbitantly high rates as per the whims and fancies of the transporters and had no choice but to get sand supplied by these drivers,” he said.

Meanwhile, sand demand has dipped from about 120 truckloads a day in the western region to 100 truckloads.

A truckload of sand costs Nu 935 from the quarry, while it is Nu 1,542 a truckload from the stock or sand depot.  The price for dredged sand is Nu 1,939 as it is finer than the sand extracted from the banks.

Tshering Palden