Construction work in Thakurgaon has come to a standstill due to lack of sand and road works worth Tk 15 crore have been halted midway in the municipality alone.
Recently, Thakurgaon Deputy Commissioner KM Kamruzzaman Selim declared that there is no sand mahal in the district and extraction of sand from different rivers or banks of the district was declared illegal.
A few days ago, two sand extraction ghats of Tangan river were declared closed. Fines are also being levied through mobile courts for extracting sand from the river during the day, which has doubled the price of sand overnight.
A few days ago, a trolley (100 CFT) of sand was sold in the district for between Tk 900 and Tk 1,100. That sand is now being sold at a price of Tk 1,800 to Tk 2,000 for each trolley.
Asked why the price of sand suddenly went up, a trolley driver named Shaheen said, "Now we have to extract sand in secret, deposit Tk 500 in the ghat and pay Tk 300 on the road. Earlier this cost was only Tk 200-300.”
Murad Hossain, Senior Vice-president of Thakurgaon Chamber of Commerce, said development work worth around Tk 15 crore has been stopped in Thakurgaon municipality alone due to lack of sand. “It is also uncertain when this work will restart.”
Deputy Commissioner KM Kamruzzaman Selim said, there is no sand mahal in Thakurgaon district. Previously there were two sandpits but they have been closed. I have instructed surveying to determine which places can be declared as sand mahal.”
“Following some procedures, we will announce and lease the sandpit as soon as we can. This will take some time,” he added.
Talking about the suspension of various development works due to lack of sand, he said, "We are talking to the higher authorities."
Thakurgaon Sadar Upazila Nirbahi Officer Abdullah-Al Mamun said, "We conducted operations at one or two ghats at night to catch illegal sand extractors, but due to various restrictions, it is not always possible at night."
"I have already submitted a proposal to the deputy commissioner...three sand mahals have been proposed to start extraction in Pirganj," he added.
Talking about the closure of various development works, he said, "Since there is no sand mahal in Thakurgaon at the moment, work can be done by bringing sand from the neighboring districts of Dinajpur or Panchagarh."
Some contractors of the district expressed their displeasure on hearing about bringing sand from Dinajpur or Panchagarh district.
One local influential business leader said that if a trolley of sand is brought from a neighboring district, the price of sand will jump to Tk 5,000-6,000. “It will not be possible for any contractor to continue the work paying that much,” he said.
Local traders also argued that the district administration must take clearances from seven to eight departments including PWD, Water Development Board, Department of Environment, Roads and Highways, Fire Brigade and more to open up new sand mahal which is a lengthy process.