Dearth of sand, gravel leaves workers jobless

- Dipak Bayalkoti, Kathmandu

Sep 6, 2014-

Manoj Rishidev, 22, from Saptari came to Kathmandu four months ago to work as a construction worker. He had hoped to make some money in order to be able to celebrate the upcoming Dashain and Tihar festivals decently.

For some time, he did earn Rs 450 a day working at various construction sites in the Capital. However, he is without work for the last 15 days due to acute shortage of construction materials across the country.

On Friday, he returned to his home in Saptari after seeing no prospect of resumption of construction works in the city.

Like Rishidev, hundreds of daily-wage earners have become jobless after construction of buildings, roads and other repair works in the Capital came to a grinding halt due to the shortage of construction materials.

Surprisingly, even a week after the government lifted the ban on extraction, collection and export of stones, gravel, sand and aggregates by renewing the operating licenses of all crusher plants, both private and public construction projects in the Valley are yet to resume.

“I came to Kathmandu with a group of ten construction workers. Nine of them have already left the town owing to lack of work,” Rishidev said. “Our festivals are going to be miserable this year.”

Despite the claim of the Ministry of Physical Infrastructure and Transport that there is sufficient stock of sand and pebbles to carry out construction work for the next three months, there is no prospect for the resumption of such projects in the near future due to the shortage of construction materials in the market.

“We are not getting sand, pebble and aggregates from crusher industries,” said Jivan Baniya, owner of Pratik Suppliers, which supplies construction materials in Kathmandu. “Our godown is virtually empty as the crusher industries have failed to supply sand and gravel as per our demand.”

It has been more than a month since the road construction and repair work, including those of road-side drainages and other physical structures, came to a halt. Similarly, hundreds of houses that were demolished during government’s road expansion programme are awaiting renovation and repair.

People are not starting any new constructions as the prices of the raw materials have skyrocketed due to black-marketing.

However, the government officials do not buy this argument, claiming that there is sufficient stock of the construction materials.

“Our study shows there is no reason to stop the construction projects as there is sufficient stock of raw materials to fulfil the demands for at least three months,” said Tulsi Prasad Sitaula, secretary at the Ministry.

Authorities also say the crusher industries and suppliers of construction materials are creating “artificial” shortage of the construction materials to hike prices.

Published: 07-09-2014 09:16

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