Thiruvananthapuram: The first load of ‘Vanasree’ sand will leave the Millpalam and Chozhiyakodu banks along the Kallada river in Kulathupuzha from May 18. With this, state-sponsored sand mining from forest areas will resume after it had been put on hold nearly a decade ago. Nearly 90 online applications have been received by the Vanasree Sand depot in Kulathupuzha in Kollam district.
The verification of the applications, to check the authenticity of the demand placed, is currently on. This sand mined from the two banks, under the Thiruvananthapuram Forest Division, is available only to consumers from Kollam district and those in Nedumangad taluk of Thiruvananthpauram district. Both the banks are in pristine uninhabited forest regions, inside the Kulathupuzha Forest range. These are the first points where streams that originate from forest heights, carrying with them all the sediments and rivers, collect. “The replenishment rate is very high in these two banks. It requires just a single rain for the stream to be re-filled, leaving not a faintest trace of the mining carried out a season ago,” said Mr Abdul Jaleel S, the Kulathupuzha range officer.
It is not as if these banks will be eternally youthful like mythical beings. There will be a limit to the volume of sand that could be extracted from them. Only 12,890 metre cube of sand could be mined from both these banks together. A sand audit was conducted before Millpalam and Chozhiyakodu banks were opened for mining. “The project has also got the go-ahead of the Kollam District Environment Impact Assessment Authority,” forest minister K Raju said. “Further, the mining will be conducted under the supervision of the Forest Department,” he added. The sand, branded ‘Vanasree Sand’, will be used exclusively for the construction of residential buildings and their maintenance.
A consumer can purchase not more than 10 metre cube or two truckloads of sand. Each load will cost Rs 22,448; for a BPL consumer it will be Rs 12,250 per load. (The open market price of sand is over Rs 30,000 a load.) An APL consumer will have to submit four documents: approved building plan, building permit from the concerned local body, ID card with photograph, and sand requirement certificate from an approved engineer. A BPL consumer will have to produce an additional certificate, a copy of the document that shows the financial assistance received from the tribal department or panchayat or block.
In 2009, when the initiative was first launched, there were widespread complaints of diversion of sand meant for BPL families to civil contractors, which eventually prompted then forest minister Binoy Viswam to suspend mining operations. “Now, all applications will be accepted only online, and sand would be sold only through the ‘Vanasree’ outlet in Kulathupuzha,” the Kulathupuzha range officer said....