The Tamil Nadu government’s commitment to stop use of river sand in construction in three years brings the alternative, M-sand (Manufactured), under the spotlight. But to make the transition to M-sand possible, rapid action is needed to increase output, say industry sources.

Earlier this month, Chief Minister Edappadi K Palaniswami urged builders to use M-sand rather than traditional river sand.

The State government is now taking steps to promote M-sand, an official release has said. According to the release, the government has sanctioned licences to open seven new quarries to meet the demand. M-sand is obtained by crushing blue metal in stone quarries.

M-sand manufacturers have been witnessing increasing demand in the past few months due to shortage of river sand. It is a win-win situation, say developers, as the price of river sand has increased from ₹30-₹40 per cubic feet from few months ago to ₹110 per cubic feet now; whereas the price of M-sand is ₹55 per cubic feet.

SK Yoganathan, Proprietor, Sri Ramakrishna Blue Metals, and President, Erode District Stone Crusher and Quarry Owners Association, said his company has been producing M-sand for the past 10 years; but is seeing traction only now. The factory, which used to be shut for most part of the year, is now running on full capacity.

Short supply

But there are challenges too. Ashok Kumar, owner of Ashok Enterprises that supplies M-sand for construction, said the daily need is 7,000-10,000 loads in the State. But the availability is only 1,000 loads. “To improve the supply, the State government should provide licences to more quarries,” he added.

Another problem is the initial investment of ₹3-4 crore associated with setting up an M-sand factory. “Without a steady stream of demand, suppliers will incur huge loss,” he added.

Though M-sand is a more suitable alternative, it comes with shortcomings. Chitty Babu, founder, Akshaya Homes, said it -sand cannot be used for internal or external plastering due to lack of cohesiveness. “We need to use chemicals to create the bonding,” he added. Additionally, the price of M-sand keep fluctuating whenever the demand rises. Since availability of M-sand is less, players who are willing to pay more get the load, Babu feels.

Arun Kumar M, founder and Managing Director, Casa Grande, said another challenge is ensuring the quality of M-sand. Though the quality and strength is good, the process of ensuring its standard is time-consuming, he added.