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Saudi sand ban to have eco impact

Bahrain contractors angry at being forced to dredge

Bahrain contractor's committee head, Samir Nass
Bahrain contractor's committee head, Samir Nass

Bahrain’s concrete suppliers have said a new ban on importing sand from Saudi Arabia will force them to increase usage of marine sand, a resource known for destroying the underwater environment.

The ban, which includes gravel products, was announced by the Saudi government end October and will take effect later
this month.

It is not known how long the ban will be in effect, but the order was reportedly given, following a ministry report on the negative ecological effects of massive sand and gravel removal.

But local ready-mix supplier and head of the Bahrain Chamber of Commerce contractor’s committee Samir Nass said the decision will have a flow-on negative impact on Bahrain’s environment.

“We try to reduce our reliability on marine sand because of the damaging effect that dredging has on our fisheries and the environment,” he told ConstructionWeekOnline.com.

“There is also huge pressure on our aquifers and water sources, which we use for washing this marine sand.
“So there are environmental concerns and it costs a lot of money - no one in Bahrain prefers this option but we have no choice.”

Nass said key construction industry stakeholders, including the government, contractors and suppliers, held an emergency meeting last week, which decided to increase production of marine sand and import more grit and fine aggregate from the UAE to create a new blend.

“This will of course not compensate for the quality of Saudi sand but it will give us an alternative and a bit of breathing space,” said Nass.

“It will also mean using more cement in the ratio to increase the strength of the concrete, as well as costing more in the admixtures to maintain that strength.”

Andy Rogers of Bahrain’s Haji Hassan Readymix agreed that a blend of  washed marine sand, UAE aggregate and increased cement ratios was currently the best alternative.

“We’ll be forced to use marine sand from Bahrain waters because there’s no alternative if you can’t get dune sand,” he said.

“It’s not great for concrete and the bottom line is we will be throwing more cement into the mix to maintain the quality.”

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