With over 400 kilometers of expressways worth VND100 trillion (US$4.2 billion) planned for Vietnam’s Mekong Delta by 2025, contractors are scrambling to ensure their teams have access to materials amidst fears of supply issues.
An Giang and Dong Thap Provinces are two of the region’s largest producers of construction sand, but shortages of this crucial material are forcing several construction projects to miss deadlines.
Tuoi Tre (Youth) newspaper reporters visited the Long Xuyen bypass project tin An Giang Province on May 22, only to find just a few workers at the site.
The reason, they said, was a lack of construction sand.
The bypass project launched in early January of this year and is expected to cost over VND2.1 trillion ($90 million) by the time it is completed in late 2023. However, the project is currently just four percent complete.
Projects in other Mekong Delta provinces are facing similar issues, particularly those in Dong Thap, Ben Tre, and Tien Giang.
In Ben Tre, the sand shortfall was mentioned at the groundbreaking for the Rach Mieu 2 Bridge project in late March.
In Vinh Long, the provincial Department of Natural Resources and Environment said in a statement that the province anticipates a dearth of some 5.5 million cubic meters of sand for construction in 2022.
“The sand scarcity will leave a considerable impact on the progress of construction projects and costs,” said Nguyen Van Tuan, deputy head of the Vinh Long Department of Natural Resources and Environment.
Can Tho is also struggling to source construction sand.
The city is currently in need of 34 million cubic meters of construction sand for the 2022-25 period, far more than what it currently holds in its reserves.
Commenting on the issue, Tran Ngoc Tam, chairman of the provincial government of Ben Tre, told Tuoi Tre that the province is currently bidding for sand mines.
It is also surveying sites for new sand mines on the local Ba Lai River.
Can Tho is looking at less traditional alternatives to construction sand.
“A Ho Chi Minh City-based firm is doing research about how to process sea sand to serve construction projects [in Can Tho],” Tam added.
In 2019, Ben Tre auctioned off five sand mines, but only one company that placed a winning bid was actually licensed to mine sand.
The other three involved in the auction had their bids canceled.
Another auction for the unclaimed sand mines cannot be held until a new zoning time span for the mines is approved, according to a report from the Ben Tre Department of Natural Resources and Environment.
According to the Department of Science and Technology, under the Ministry of Transport, solutions to the sand shortage must be found as soon as possible, otherwise expressway projects will continue to fall behind schedule.
This department suggested using sea sand or saline sand as alternatives.
Similarly, Tran Tri Quang, vice-chairman of Dong Thap, said the province has already proposed that relevant ministries and agencies sort out alternatives to cope with the sand paucity.
The province has asked many agencies to research measures to balance sand supplies so as not to affect the progress of key projects.