NRDCL says sand shortage will be resolved soon

While contractors allege that NRDCL is not selling sand, the company says shortage in the market is confined only to Sha region and that it will be resolved soon

Following the issues raised by most Bhutanese contractors on the cooling period associated with non-performing loans (NPL), contractors are now calling foul and stating that the Natural Resources Development Corporation Limited (NRDCL) is not supplying them sand. However, officials from the NRDCL say that there is sand, though not adequate and that it is a fallout of the COVID 19 pandemic, while stating that the issue will be resolved soon.

Proprietor of Neten Constructions, who is also a board member of the Constructions Association of Bhutan (CAB) said that they have been unable to procure sand from NRDCL for the past few weeks. He also added that there is no shortage of sand but that NRDCL has stopped the supply.

“When we inquired about sand, NRDCL said they are unable to do so since the quota of the sand is already booked,” he added.

Meanwhile, another contractor reported that all of his current projects are on hold because he is unable to obtain sand.

“I regularly order sand from NRDCL, but I didn’t receive any this time. I also tried contacting the local sand providers in the area, but they all refused to deliver saying that the quota is not for contractors and that they have local buyers,” he said

Subsequently, all the contractors face similar issues and say that the problems and the hindrance don’t seem to stop for them.

“We are already facing a lot of issues, due to the recent directives from Royal Monetary Authority (RMA) on the six-month observation period on NPL and on the other hand, the time extension which some agencies have refused to give.”

He added that they are trying to finish the work without the time extension. With the shortage of sand, he said that completing the projects on time would be difficult. “How will we do the work without the raw material supplies, if we don’t finish the work by the deadline and the Liquidated Damages (LD) will be charged,” he said.

Replying to the above, the officiating chief executive officer (CEO) of NRDCL said, it is true that there is shortage of sand in the market. “However, the shortage is confined to the areas around Sha region only,” he said, adding that in other parts of the country, there are no shortages. 

Explaining the causes, he said that sand dredging and collection for storage at Sha is done during the dry seasons. “We collect sand between January to March and then November and December. Due to the pandemic, this could not be done,” he said, adding that NRDCL also lost between 6,000 to 8,000 truckloads of sand as the rising river washed the resources away.

The officiating CEO also said there has been huge backlogs and that sand is now provided based on the backlogs. “In-fact, we want everyone to get some amount so that their works are not hampered and we did so. But it is simply not sufficient,” he underlined.

He also questioned why NRDCL “would not supply” sand if the company had. “We also want to make money and there is no rationale behind allegations that we are hoarding sand,” he noted.

Further, he mentioned that the problem would be soon resolved. “From November all the plants will begin to operate fully and optimally and there will be no issues of shortage,” he explained.

Meanwhile, a private employee constructing his house at Chamgang said this was bound to happen. “The pandemic affected NRDCL in collecting and storing sand. In the meantime, the country opened and all stalled works in construction began at the same time. In such a scenario, supply cannot match demand,” he said.

NRDCL, which was earlier called the Forestry Development Corporation Limited (FDCL) was established in November 2007, under Royal Command. The company is mandated to ensure continued supply of stones, sand and timber at affordable rates, which paves the way for people to construct their own houses. Today, it is one of the companies under Druk Holdings Investment (DHI). Prior to its establishment, private companies were supplying sand at exorbitant prices.

Tshering Pelden from Thimphu