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On loose sand

Sand is a national resource. To curb private players from commercially trading state resources, sand and other natural resources were nationalised in 2007.

Although measures to address illegal hoarding of sand and price escalation were initiated in the past, the Natural Resources Development Corporation Limited (NRDCL) now requires the transaction of sand to be routed through ​it.

Starting this month, customers should place their requirement of sand with the corporation and not transporters.

The NRDCL has the mandate to manage natural resources and ensure that these resources are affordable, accessible and available.  This recent move is good for it will regulate the price and supply of sand in the market. Following the nationalisation of sand, the price of sand dropped by almost 50 percent.

But truckers claim that this move has left them on loose sand. After appealing to authorities including the prime minister, truckers have resorted to threatening officials and stopping trucks from plying. This is wrong, even if their grievances were genuine.

Resorting to such acts and causing a ruckus may gain attention but it will not help resolve the problem. But then, some see these expressions as a manifestation of the truckers’ frustrations.  If they are ​so aggrieved, the authorities must listen to them, yet again, to assess the new system’s impact on their livelihood.

The prime minister has asked for a formation of a task force to review the new system. Even if most agree to the revised sand supply system, it becomes necessary to assess if all 100 truckers are affected. Few truck owners who own a fleet of trucks could be inciting these complaints and the review must ensure that private interests do not consume public resources.

Laws are clear on management of natural resources. Article 1, section 12 of the Constitution states that “the rights over mineral resources, river, lakes and forests shall vest in the State and are the properties of the State, which shall be regulated by law”.

Failing to vest these rights would also be considered a violation of Article 9, section 7, which states that the State shall endeavour to, “minimise inequality of income, concentration of wealth, and promote equitable distribution of public facilities among individuals and people living in different parts of the Kingdom.”

But having laws and rules in place is not enough if implementation is weak. NRDCL initiated several measures in the past to streamline sand supply but issues of hoarding and escalation in transportation cost persist. This either indicates weak implementation or that the measures taken were unsustainable.

Last year, confusion arose in Trashigang when the revised forest and nature conservation rules allowed registered landowners to commercially trade sand extracted from their land. NRDCL’s official raised the issue at the dzongkhag tshogdu saying that the provision has superseded the executive order that nationalised natural resources.

With several agencies involved in the management and facilitation of natural resources, there is a need to iron out inconsistencies in policies. Conflicting rules and system do not protect natural resources, let alone consumers and transporters.

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