Return of sand permit upsets construction industry

Sri Lanka’s construction industry has been disturbed by the Government’s decision to reintroduce the sand transport permit that was temporarily suspended last December.
According to a directive of the Geological Survey and Mines Bureau (GSMB), the permit is to be reintroduced tomorrow (16) onwards, and is set to impact the transportation of raw materials for construction projects.
Speaking to The Sunday Morning Business, the Chamber of Construction Industries Sri Lanka (CCISL), the apex representative body of all construction industry stakeholders in the country, noted that neither the GSMB nor any other authorities informed the industry about the reinstatement of the permit.
“GSMB is a member of our chamber as well. So far they have not informed us about this. But if they are going to reintroduce it, then they should inform us prior. Enforcing and suspending regulations overnight is not fair,” CCISL President Eng. Maj. Ranjith Gunatilleke noted.
For further confirmation on this matter, we spoke to the GSMB where an official confirmed that they are reintroducing the permit from Monday (16) but refused to provide any further information. The mining license and transport license are issued by the GSMB under the Mines and Minerals Act No. 33 of 1992.
Right after the suspension of the permit to transport sand and other raw materials including gravel and clay on 4 December, CCISL lauded the move as it would put an end to the delays that have plagued the industry for the past few years. However, the reinstatement of the permit is expected to cause delays that would result in construction developers incurring additional costs.
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 is also required to transport excessive raw materials at construction sites, and delays in transporting them were major obstacles for developers in proceeding 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.
It is also notable that the removal of the permit requirement in December was 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 (CENS) also opposed the decision to remove the permit requirement as it would encourage sand smugglers.