|The prices of quarried sand in Chennai have witnessed a surge from Rs 1300 per 100 cubic feet (a unit) to Rs 2,000 a unit after the implementation of the Tamil Nadu government's order to shift sand quarrying to the public works department (PWD).|
|Trade sources here, however, expect the price to settle at Rs 1,500 per unit over the next one month. The state government's decision to shift the sand quarrying from a tender-based system to the PWD was to curb illegal quarrying and trade.|
|Sections of the trade have welcomed this move as it would legitimise the business, apart from bringing order and price stability.|
|At the peak of the illegal trade, lorry operators were carrying sand in trucks that were much beyond the load limits fixed by regional transport office (RTO). Truckers were found carrying up to even double the allowed quantity of two units or 200 cubic feet per truck.|
|S Yuvaraj, the president of Madras Lorry Owners Association, said, "sand quarrying had become a very tough business where only the best survived. The high cost of maintaining trucks due to overload, drove many out of business. Apart from this, the damage caused to roads was also immense."|
|The overload issue had now come to an end, thanks to the recent move by the government to take control of quarrying. He further said: "Under the earlier system only some four or five quarries were exploited for sand. The government officials have now confirmed that some 20 more quarries have been located surrounding Chennai. At least 15 of these are expected to become operational in the next one month. Prices should stabilise around Rs 1,500 per unit."|
|The 20-odd quarries selected by the government are located in the Thiruvallur and Kancheepuram district in Tamil Nadu. One trader pointed out that some of these quarries were located closer to Chennai and hence could help in saving transportation cost. This in turn is expected to bring down the price of sand by around Rs 200 to Rs 400 per truck load.|
|Quarry owners, meanwhile, obtained a stay order from Madras High Court to stop the state from taking control of the quarries let out to them. The court is understood to have asked the industry ministry for more inputs on the sand trade in TN. This, however, does not stop the government from using non-leased quarries.|
|Pointing out environmental hazards under the earlier system, J Ravi, a local truck operator, said, "the state allows digging of river beds up to three feet only. This is to ensure that water levels can be restored when it rains. But some quarry operators have crossed this limit manifold, allowing the flood water to log at one point, and stopping the water flowing downstream."|
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