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Silica, not sand: Only useful for sand castles

November 17, 2017

Writer asks if natural resources and environment ministry had carried out an environmental impact study before the export of sand was permitted from Sungai Pahang and Sungai Kelantan.

COMMENT

p-ramasamy-silaca-sandBy P Ramasamy

If sand imported from Malaysia to India is not natural sand but silica, then it is only useful for building “sand castles” in Tamil Nadu.

Why did the Malaysian government allow the export of sand to Tamil Nadu, India, without fully analysing the content of the sand mined from the estuaries of Sungai Pahang and Sungai Kelantan?

Is it true that the sand mined and exported was not really natural sand, but silica?

If a company by the name of MRM Ramaiya had not filed a case to strike out the ban imposed by the Tamil Nadu state government on sand imported from Malaysia, we would not have known that what was imported was not natural sand but silica.

In appearing for the Tamil Nadu government, advocate general Vijay Narayan said the state authorities had to stop the sale of sand imported from Malaysia after finding that it was really silica.

He said silica, unlike natural sand, could not be used for construction purposes, and there would be real and potential hazards if it was used.

He added that the Tamil Nadu government had to step in to impose the ban after finding out that it was not natural sand but silica.

The company in Tamil Nadu that imported the sand from Malaysia, mainly from Sungai Pahang, is MRM Ramaiya Enterprises Private Ltd.

Its owner, MRM Ramaiya, told the court that she imported the sand from Malaysia through another company based in Singapore.

However, despite having about 55,000 metric tonnes of sand from Malaysia, she was unable to dispose of it because the Tamil Nadu government refused to give a licence to her company on the grounds that what was imported was not natural sand but silica.

She sought the direction of the court to lift the ban imposed so that she could sell the sand in Tamil Nadu, if not, then to move her operations to the state of Kerala.

The Madras High Court is yet to give its decision on the matter.

But the government’s advocate raised serious questions about sand exports from Malaysia, mainly from Sungai Pahang and Sungai Kelantan.

While the Malaysian government defended the export of sand with the need to dredge the estuaries of the two rivers to prevent floods, it did not disclose to the public the contents of the sand that was exported and the details of the two companies that were given the licence to export.

Now the case in the Madras High Court has revealed that the sand imported into India might not be used for construction purposes. It would be interesting to know the response from the Malaysian government, especially the natural resources and environment ministry.

Before the export of the sand, did the ministry impose an environmental impact study to determine whether sand could be exported from these two rivers?

Export of sand is not an ordinary matter, as many rivers have dried up in other countries as a result of indiscriminate sand mining.

If answers are not forthcoming from the Malaysian government, we expect either the state government of Tamil Nadu or the central government to throw light on the nature of sand exports from Malaysia.

The sand export from Malaysia raises more questions than answers. It smacks of impropriety on the part of some in Tamil Nadu and Malaysia.

P Ramasamy is Penang deputy chief minister and DAP deputy secretary-general.

The views expressed are those of the author and do not necessarily reflect those of FMT.


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