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Asian Tribune is published by World Institute For Asian Studies|Powered by WIAS Vol. 12 No. 2831

Belgium Funds Local Sea Sand Mining Project

Sunil C. Perera in Colombo

Colombo, 30 November, ( The Government of Sri Lanka, local private sector and the international partners have agreed to enter the sea sand mining business to end environmental problems and reduce sand prices in the country.

The proposed sea sand mining and washing project in Muthurajawela will reduce current sand prices and provide over 500 employment opportunities, specially for the Western Province and the rest of the country.Sea-sand dredging shipSea-sand dredging ship

At present the construction sector needs over 10,320,000 Metric tons of sand per annum and the Western province needs 4,334,400 metric tons of sand annually. The entire sand supply is fulfilled by extracting sand from river beds.

According to the contractors the prices of sand is increasing day by day. At present a cube of sand is Rs. 9000.00 and the Geological Survey and Mines Bureau [GSMB] issues sand permits to dredging sand from river beds.

CEO of the Lanka Orix Project Development Limited Engineer Nimal Mendis says the proposed BOI Company under incorporation between Dredging International NV, Belgium and Lanka Orix Project Development Ltd. will take this task of offshore sand mining, washing, sieving and grading to supply sand for the construction industry.

Dredging International, NV – Belgium rated as one of the largest dredging & reclamation companies in the world will be the technology provider for the project with financial assistance from the Flemish Government of Belgium and KBC Bank, Belgium . Ecorem a Belgium Environmental consulting company is assigned by the Belgium authorities to undertake the feasibility study, environmental assessment & due diligence for the project.

Lanka Orix Project Development Ltd act as the project promoter and the Belgium government’s representatives have pledged to provide a grant 35% and balance as an interest free loan for the sand washing facility of the project.

Mr.Mendis said Sea sand is being seen as a viable alternative to river sand, the illicit mining of which has adversely affected rivers and fragile ecosystems. The sand is to be pumped out from a 20 metre depth. Several successful trial studies have been conducted. The initial study as part of a Coastal Resources Management project funded by the Asian Development Bank on the request of the Ministry of Fisheries and Aquatic Resources was carried out in recent years. International studies have backed deep sea sand utilization as a better and less environmentally hazardous option, but Sri Lanka lacks the expertise. The quality of the sand, location, impact on marine ecosystems, the cost of extraction including transport have to be taken into consideration to ensure a good sand harvest that will serve the industry's purpose as well as the country's environmental concerns, sources said.

According to the promoters of the project the Cabinet sub committee chaired by the President Mahindha Rajapaksha has approved the project to be implemented on “Fast Track” scheme to witness elimination of the severe damage to the environment and supply sand to the construction industry at affordable rates.

The Board of Investment has granted its approval under the section 17 of the BOI Act and the government directed the Sri Lanka Land Reclamation and Development Corporation to release 48 acres at Muthurajawela to the project, where Central Environmental Authority’s [ CEA] approval and GSMB approval has been granted for this project.

“Our Belgium partners with concurrence with the Belgium Authorities are in the process of collecting data to formulate and compile the feasibility study and the project covers North of Negombo , Beruwala, Balapitiya and Muthurajawela off shore areas demarcated by Geological Survey and Mines Bureau [GSMB] for exploration, he explained.

The company spokesman said the exploration applications been prepared on the identified locations in the South and North of Colombo as described above for future off-shore sand.

“We have suggested that the relevant government agency that could spearhead this project be the Central Environmental Authority [CEA] as this project is inclined towards protecting the rivers in the Sri Lanka and the environment, he said.

The CEA will receive anticipated benefits as the implementing agency of this project such as a complete ban on harvesting sand from river beds, receipts of payments on royalties as applicable, commission on sales of sand, employment for Sri Lankans Island wide, be a partner of this pioneering project and transfer of modern technology.

Speaking to media Mr.Mendis said after the commencement of the project the company could meet the entire sand demand of Sri Lanka within 16 months. “The contractors will receive an opportunity to purchase a cube of sand estimated at Rs.4000.00 after we commence the operation, he said.

Responding questions made by media , he said the project will protect environment , will reduce construction cost , boom employment opportunities island wide , Transfer of technology , excess production of sand could be exported to Maldives , Eroded shore lines from Tsunami could be reclaimed and at low cost /facilitate extended beaches for development and tourism with raw sand.

Mr.Mendis said the Representatives of the Belgium Authorities have visited Sri Lanka and met government representatives to commence the project soon.

- Asian Tribune -

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