June 18, 2021

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Quality testing is mandatory in bitumen imports

There was no quality control initiative in the import of bitumen, an important component of road-highway construction. The Bangladesh Standards and Testing Institution (BSTI), Bangladesh University of Engineering (BUET) and Eastern Refinery Limited (ERL) were importing adulterated and low quality bitumen freely without quality verification. From now on, before unloading petroleum bitumen products imported into the country, the government has made quality testing mandatory through three institutions designated by the government.

An order signed by Commerce Ministry Deputy Secretary Mohammad Monir Hossain Hawlader was issued last Tuesday. It is mentioned in the order that the government has amended the Import Policy Order-2015-2016 with the power given in the Import and Export (Control) Act.

The order prohibits the import of all products, including petroleum oil residues, except petroleum coke and petroleum bitumen; However, in case of import of petroleum bitumen, the quality of HS Code Nos. 2713.20.20 and 2613.2090 will be from Bangladesh Standards and Testing Institution (BSTI), Bangladesh University of Engineering (BUET), Eastern Refinery Limited before unloading.

Without quality checks, a syndicate of unscrupulous traders is importing low quality bitumen and selling it to contractors for hundreds of crores of rupees. The syndicate is selling low quality bitumen mixed with adulterated. As a result, after the construction and repair of roads and highways, it is becoming ineffective. The government is spending hundreds of crores of rupees on development activities. Instead of walking comfortably on the road, people are suffering.

Communications experts say low-quality bitumen is coming from a Middle Eastern country due to a lack of specific rules and regulations at the import stage. Importers do not have to face any standard set by the government. Deda is importing low quality bitumen by taking advantage of this lack of supervision. As a result, 60 to 70 percent of the country’s roads are being destroyed within six months to a year after construction. And in the case of road construction, bitumen melting, the rules and regulations that need to be followed in the mixing of bitumen with stones, the roads are being destroyed because they are not followed properly. In such a situation, the government took initiative to check the quality.

It is learned that in 2015, the Ministry of Road Transport and Bridges issued a notification to stop the use of low quality bitumen. It is said that 60 to 70 grade high quality bitumen should be used in road works. But because the prices are relatively low, the contractors are using low quality imported bitumen.

It is known that the annual demand of bitumen in the country is about five and a half lakh metric tons. The market for bitumen in the country is around Tk 24,000 crore. The state-owned Eastern Refinery Limited supplies only 60,000 to 70,000 tonnes of bitumen as a by-product. This is less than 13 percent of the total demand. Importers have to go for the rest of bitumen.

Meanwhile, the Bitumen Grade Determination Committee has recommended the use of bitumen after testing to determine the correct quality.

It is known that in order to control the quality of bitumen, the former dean of the civil engineering department of BUET, Prof. The Department of Local Government Engineering (LGED) formed a ‘Bitumen Grade Determination Committee’ headed by Mohammad Zakaria. The committee met on March 9 last year to determine the grade of bitumen. The minutes of the meeting mentioned four decisions: 1. To develop and repair roads following the road design standards developed by BUET for the Department of Local Government Engineering. 2. Using 60 to 70 grade bitumen on LGED roads considering the tariff volume. 3. Use of performance grade bitumen and polymer modified bitumen to ensure ‘road design’ and mixed design for national highways or regional highways, airport highways, upazila roads and other important roads in special cases based on tariff volume. 4. Coordinate between bitumen manufacturing companies, importers, quality control and user organizations and National Board of Revenue (NBR).

In this regard, the chairman of the ‘Bituminous Grade Determination Committee’ formed by the government and former dean of the civil engineering department of Bangladesh University of Engineering and Technology (BUET) and retired professor Dr. Mohammad Zakaria said Eastern Refinery Limited (ERL) manufactures bitumen and also imports some bitumen from abroad. Whatever bitumen comes in, if it does not pass the appropriate quality test, the authorities will cancel it. Because when the quality of bitumen is bad, the upper part of the road is damaged. If regular testing is not done after importing bitumen, the road will not last under any circumstances. ‘

Experts say that if the road is paved with high quality bitumen of 70 to 80 grade, the road will last for two to three years. But the roads of our country do not last even a year. Almost all the roads and highways of the country have to be repaired after the monsoon every year. Again, there is a precedent in the country that the road did not last even six months after the pitch was poured. The main reason for this is the very low quality of imported bitumen. This bitumen melts on the one hand on low heat, on the other hand the gum is lost in rain water.

Shamsul Haque, a professor in the Department of Civil Engineering at the Bangladesh University of Engineering, told Kaler Kanth that the road is not sustainable due to the use of low-quality bitumen, which is certainly correct. He advised the government to build roads with good quality bitumen.