Sand export has the capacity to fetch between Tk 700 m to 1.2 b
Zahid Hossain Biplob: The government’s initiative to export sand and soil to countries showing interest to import it for use in construction industry and protecting islands from the rising sea-level but processes are still complex over the years due to bureaucratic tangle.
The commerce ministry had earlier given its nod to exporting sand and soil saying the existing laws, rules and export policy order do not bar sand export.
Zafrul Islam Azizi, joint secretary (export) of the Commerce Ministry yesterday informed Daily Industry that they held a meeting on January 10 with the land ministry and other authorities concerned on the potential of sand export.
He said the land ministry which is the owner of sand and soil, if allow to export, the commerce ministry has no reservation about sand export,’ he added.
Siraj Uddin Ahmed, additional secretary of the Land Ministry while contacted yesterday said that the January 10 meeting asked the land ministry to formulate a separate policy for sand export and it is under process yet.
The proposal to export sand, was raised an Executive Committee of the National Economic Council (ECNEC) meeting back in 2016 but the matter didn’t progress from there, said another official of the Land Ministry said wishing not to be named.
The land ministry, which is the owner of sand and soil, took a move to export sand in 2010 but the move remained stalled, he added.
The ministry formed a technical committee in 2012 to assess both the environmental and financial feasibility of exporting sand, said the sources.
Contacted Md Abul Monsur, additional secretary of the Mineral Resources Ministry said the ministry is yet in dark over the matter.
Besides, an official of the ministry prefering anonimity not to be named said that it’s the mineral resources ministry that’s against the proposal. They claim that exporting sand will lead to the loss of large amount mineral resources from Bangladesh.
The mineral resources ministry on the other hand hasn’t done much in this sector other than conducting a survey on beach sand. The 1995 survey revealed that the sand contains valuable minerals which might be profitable for the country if purified, he added.
Meanwhile, environment ministry employees are of the view that no matter what the government decides on the matter, they have to ensure that the environment is in no way harmed.
On the other hand the shipping ministry says that unrestrained extraction of sand from the riverbed may lead the rivers to change their course and the risks must be taken into account.
Sand export has the capacity to fetch anywhere between Tk 700 million to 1.2 billion for Bangladesh and several business organisations have already made proposals to export it. However, the government is silent on the matter, claimed businessmen.
“There is a large scope of bringing in foreign currency through export of sand,” said Hedayet Ullah Al Mamun, a former commerce secretary while talkin to Daily Industry yesterday.
He added that there is significant demand for soil in the Asian Sub-continent.
In 2016, private organisation ‘Network and Infrastructure Company’ applied to export 1.5 million tonne of sand to Singapore but received no response from the government yet.
Several organisations such a Stone Traders, Life International had applied but are yet to receive a response.
“The commerce ministry didn’t respond to our application of exporting sand to Singapore,” MK Mamnur Rashid, Assistant Manager of Network and Infrastructure told Daily Industry.
Bangladesh Atomic Energy Commission sources said that the government had attempted to extract mineral rich sand form the Bay of Bengal. The commission had set up a specialised centre at Cox’s Bazar in 1975 for the purpose as well.
They said that 43 years later, the commission was still engaged in searching and extracting mineral rich substances from coastal areas.
The commission claims that in 40 years of research, they discovered 17 mineral rich masses. The researchers found that Elemnite, Magnetite, Garnet, Zircon, Rutile, Titanium, Lukoxin, Monazite and Kenite are the categories of sand that are both rich in minerals and have economic and commercial possibilities.
According to researchers of the commission, it’s possible to commercially extract 1.76 million metric tonne of mineral rich sand, a part of which can be used in the industries and the rest of it can be extracted.
A mineral resources ministry source told that there are mainly two kinds of sand in Bangladesh. One is Zircon, which is used for construction and another is the mineral rich sand.
Both Singapore and Maldives has expressed interest to import sand and soil from Bangladesh. In fact the Maldives president, during his visit to Bangladesh in 2010 told Prime Minister Sheikh Hasina about their interest.
Singapore on the other hand imports sand from Indonesia and Malaysia as 20 percent of their land is made from imported sand. The island, a popular tourist destination has been expanding by filling up the sea with sand.
According to reports published by Singapore business portal Trade Winds, the country has high demand of soil and sand in their infrastructural development projects aimed at boosting up industrialisation and trade.
Not only Singapore, the Maldives government has also expressed their interest to Prime Minister Sheikh Hasina to source soil and sand from Bangladesh, say sources familiar with the matter.
However, the Ministry of Commerce is yet to add any clause or guidelines with regard to sand export policies, alleged the businesses.