Scientists from the country's Institute of Transport Science and Technology (ITST) warned last week that the domestic supply of natural sand was nearing an end and could be depleted in five years due to excessive exploitation, the Vietnam News reported on Wednesday (Oct 25).

But Vietnam still needs about 100 million cubic metres of sand every year for construction projects across the country.

The scientists say a valid alternative to meet the increasing demand could lie in producing artificial sand ground from rocks.

According to the scientists, the artificial sand can be manufactured by crushing certain types of rocks, which can be found in southern Vietnam, the Tuoi Tre News website reported.

They said this type of industrially made sand is already available in parts of the world to make asphalt concrete for roads and construction concrete. This method also produces better quality concrete for construction, they added.

According to the scientists, the cost of the man-made sand is also an advantage as ground rock can be 10-15 per cent cheaper than natural sand.

Prrices of natural sand have skyrocketed in the past six months after a massive crackdown on the illegal sand dredging industry. That created a shortfall in the supply of sand, leading to a 200 per cent rise in sand prices which had shown no signs of easing.

Several infrastructure projects have struggled to find new supplies as many are on the verge of exceeding their planned investments.

The institute had met last week with the Ho Chi Minh City Department of Transport to discuss new construction materials for its infrastructure projects.

Nguyen Thành Nam, director of the Ha Noi Highway project in Ho Chi Minh City, said that works to upgrade and expand the highway had been in trouble due to the price hike.

"We are looking for more detail information (on industrial sand). If the sand meets the standard, we will use it to pave the sidewalks of the Ha Noi Highway," Nam said.

Sand along the country's local rivers have long been exported to many foreign countries, including Singapore.

The government has ordered the Ministry of Construction to cease the exports of sand.

The Straits Times - October 25, 2017