Sunday, February 22, 2009

Kerala sees money in sand in dams

February 22, 2009

Kerala has come up with an innovative idea when governments the word over are facing a revenue shortfall: It wants to dredge the sands silted in the five dams in the state and sell it for real estate development and other civil construction.

The state government estimates that the sand, which has reduced the water storage capacity in major dams in Kerala by 30-40 per cent, is worth Rs 12,000-15,000 crore.

Presenting the budget for 2009-10, Kerala Finance Minister T M Thomas Isaac said this will not only improve the storage capacity of the dams but also provide additional revenue to the government. In addition, illegal sand mining done along the river beds will be checked.

The global economic crisis has hurt Kerala more than other states — overseas tourist numbers have fallen and remittances from West Asia have dropped sharply. Hence, the idea to tap sand deposits in the reservoirs. “Monthly income from this scheme will be amortised and raised in 2009-10. This may yield revenue of Rs 300 crore,” Issac said.

The state will first study whether it’s feasible to take sand deposits from the dams without damaging the ecosystem and also drinking water facilities. Thereafter, sand from the Malampuzha dam will be taken out. Bidders will be selected through an open tender process for a period of two years.

Experts said dredging of sands from dams is not a complicated process and is not uncommon. “But problems arise when desiltation is not done properly and leads to increased silting again in three to six months. Then you realise that the money is not well spent,” said a hydro-power expert.

The state government is projecting a revenue deficit of Rs 3,728 crore in the current fiscal year, which is likely to decline to around Rs 3,000 crore in 2009-10. Revenue receipts are projected to increase by nearly Rs 3,000 crore to Rs 28,153 crore in 2009-10.

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