Sand from Malaysia not fit for construction, says Indian state

Advocate general, Vijay Narayan.
Advocate general, Vijay Narayan.

PETALING JAYA: Over 55,000 metric tonnes of sand imported from Malaysia for sale in Tamil Nadu may pose health hazards if used for construction purposes as it is not natural sand but silica, the state government told a court in India this week.

Speaking at the Madras High Court on Tuesday, advocate general Vijay Narayan said according to experts, silica does not have the same characteristics as natural sand.

“The use of silica in construction will lead to health hazards. The government can’t allow the public to use it,” he was quoted as saying by The Times of India (TOI).

Narayan added that silica sand was a mineral, which could not be sold in the state of Tamil Nadu unless the dealer applied for registration and fulfilled the requisite conditions.

“One can’t come and sell minerals here and there,” he said.

The court case was filed by M R M Ramaiya, the managing director of M R M Ramaiya Enterprises Private Limited.

According to the report, Ramaiya said she had entered into an agreement with a Singapore company called All Works Trading Limited on Sept 9 to import one lakh tonne of sand.

Some 55,443 metric tonnes were subsequently imported from Sungai Pahang for sale in Tamil Nadu.

However, the state government barred the sale of the sand, following which Ramaiya sought a direction for the government not to insist that her company obtain a licence and transport slip to transport and sell the sand there, the report said.

Ramaiya’s lawyer, Vallinayagam, said every document regarding the import was in order, and that the government had no right to restrict the sale of imported sand in the state.

Narayan disputed this, saying that silica was a mineral, and that the state had jurisdiction to intervene in the import of minerals.

Instead of being used in construction, he suggested that the sand be used for industrial purposes such as the manufacturing of ceramic objects.

The report said the sand was presently being held at the Tuticorin port in Tamil Nadu.

The case was heard before Justice R Mahadevan.

Ramaiya eventually expressed willingness to move the sand to Kerala instead.

On Nov 2, the Malaysian government said it had given approval for two companies to export sand to India.

Natural Resources and Environment Minister Wan Junaidi Tuanku Jaafar said the companies had sent 50,000 tonnes of sand to Tamil Nadu.

The sand, which was imported by a private firm based in Pudukottai, was obtained from dredging the Sungai Pahang and Sungai Kelantan estuaries to keep flooding at bay.

The cost of the imported Malaysian sand was said to be 60 rupees (RM4) per cubic foot, 50% cheaper than the river sand from Tamil Nadu which costs between 110 and 120 rupees.

Wan Junaidi confirms 2 firms allowed to export sand to India