How do you run out of Sand?

In yet another triumph of reporting old news I can now reveal India is running short of sand. This problem has been going on for quite some time, at least as far back as February 2010 in fact, but has only recently come to my attention as it has finally affected something important; tunnels.

Yes part of the latest attempt to provide fresh clean water to Bombay has been held up due to a lack of sand. As to how the question ‘How do you run out of sand’ there doesn’t appear to be a clear answer. It looks like a combination of (presumably) well intentioned environmental legislation and a vicious sand tax. In any event there’s a lot less sand about the place, production is down 95%, and prices are up six fold to 12,000 rupee per brass. (Why they use the word brass instead of 100 cubic feet is a good question. As is the question of why they still use cubic feet. But those are good questions for another time.).

One of the few points everyone agrees on is that there is no physical shortage of sand, it’s just people aren’t allowed to get at it/have to pay too much to get it. Indeed the last attempt to auction off new sand mining sites flopped because the licences were too expensive. I confess to being a little unsure over this entire affair. Certainly you can’t imagine this happening in China, they’d just shoot the judges and environmentalists and then order everyone back to the sand mines. That the Indian courts feel they can bring the entire construction industry to a standstill on environmental reasons is certainly a very ‘Western’ thing to do, I’m just not sure it’s a good thing.

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