The decision by the Ministry of Environment, Wildlife and Tourism to encourage construction companies to use artificial sand has been received with mixed feelings. Artificial sand, which is made from left-overs from quarries, is meant to replace natural sand and is being promoted as part of efforts to curb pollution of the environment and destruction of rivers.
However, though they agreed with the need to preserve the environment, experts are of the view that using artificial sand for construction will drive property prices very high. Nick Van Rensberg of the Association of Botswana Builders and Civil Engineering Contractors commended the ministry for bringing the issue up saying it needs to be debated. He however pointed out that using artificial sand will hike property prices to unaffordable levels.
“Using artificial sand will drive properties price to levels where most people will not afford to have a roof over their heads. This is not what we want,” he said.
Van Rensberg explained that using artificial sand is more expensive as it uses more cement than natural sand because of the way it is structured.
Besides, he said, sieving artificial sand is more complicated than natural sand. He added that artificial sand cannot be used for plastering because of the way it is structured.
For his part, the Managing Director of Zac Construction, Nicholas Zakhem, said that though he agreed with the calls to use artificial sand for the benefit of the environment, he thought it would be very expensive to do so.
Zakhem said he did not believe artificial sand would produce the desired results in the country at the moment.
He added that Botswana is sparsely populated, with geographically significant vastness and considerable distances between villages, such that it would not make any economic sense to set up artificial sand factories in such widespread areas.
He argued that sand manufacturing factories may negatively impact on small scale sand miners and transporters.
There has been an outcry in villages surrounding Gaborone where building construction companies are harvesting sand, with most villagers complaining that harvesting of sand damages the environment.
They also accused the contractors of leaving behind large holes which later become death traps for their children during rainy seasons.