Raw material permit removal to speed up constructions

The Chamber of Construction Industry, Sri Lanka (CCI), the apex representative body of all construction industry stakeholders in the country, has commended the removal of the permit requirement for sand, clay, and gravel transport as it would put an end to the delays that have plagued the industry for the past few years.
CCI President Eng. Maj. Ranjith Gunatilleke told The Sunday Morning Business that the permit requirement was causing delays, resulting in construction developers incurring additional costs, and that none of the authorities addressed this issue even though it has been taken up by the industry several times.
“Even though the permit cost is negligible, the permit was causing two main issues. One is the delay and the second one is additional costs due to the delay,” Gunatilleke noted.
Last week, the Cabinet of Ministers approved a proposal to do away with the requirement of obtaining permits for the transportation of sand, clay, and gravel with immediate effect.
The decision has been taken due to the difficulties that have risen when securing the necessary raw materials for the construction industry as a result of various malpractices that occur when issuing the permit.
According to Gunatilleke, vehicles carrying sand, clay, and gravel are usually stopped by the Police at multiple points en route to its destination in order to check the validity of the permit, a routine which has been hindering the process of raw materials reaching construction sites on time and thereby causing delays in the overall construction period.
In addition, the permit was also required to transport excessive raw materials at construction sites and delays in transporting them were major obstacles for developers to proceed to the next stage.
Gunatilleke stated that the permit requirement was introduced as a measure to protect the environment. But according to him, this is not a good solution for environmental concerns.
“Having these regulations is not the way to control environmental issues. Arrests should be made from the lower levels, including at the point of mining, instead of stopping vehicles after the materials have been loaded,” he added.
On a further note, he stated that the removal of the permit requirement would reduce construction costs.
Meanwhile, stakeholders of the construction industry have requested a meeting with President Gotabaya Rajapaksa to discuss existing issues in the industry.
“We are planning to discuss multiple issues including high interest rates for sector loans and the lethargic bureaucratic process in getting construction approvals,” he added.
According to Gunatilleke, if interest rates for construction sector loans could come down, there would certainly be a drop in property prices. In addition, the existing bureaucratic hurdles in obtaining construction approvals drive away foreign investors.
“With the hope of investing, foreign investors come to Sri Lanka, but once they get to know that obtaining approval takes over a year, they just go back. This should be cut down to a maximum of three months,” he noted.
However, the removal of the permit requirement has been opposed by the Surakimu Sri Lanka organisation as they claimed that 82% of the raw materials checked while being transported to construction sites are found to be illegal. The Centre for Environment and Nature Studies also opposes the decision to remove the permit requirement as it would encourage sand smugglers.
However, Co-Cabinet Spokesperson Minister Bandula Gunawardana, addressing the media last week, noted that this is a temporary removal for a trial period of one week and the final decision would be taken at this week’s Cabinet meeting.
Mining license and transport license were issued by the Geological Survey and Mines Bureau under the Mines and Minerals Act No. 33 of 1992.