Despite spending millions on the construction of roads and highways in Bangladesh, they get dilapidated sooner than in most other countries due to usage of low quality bitumen.
Bangladesh meets the annual requirement of bitumen through 80 per cent imports as only 20 per cent is produced in the country by the state-owned Eastern Refinery. But unlike other imported products, bitumen is entering the country without any certification and approval from Bangladesh Standards and Testing Institution (BSTI), Bangladesh Petroleum Corporation and Bangladesh University of Engineering and Technology (BUET).Due to the absence of proper testing, low-quality bitumen is entering the country unchecked and being used in our literally ‘precious’ roads and highways. It is a paradox that despite the low cost of labour in Bangladesh and the usage of low quality bitumen, per kilometre road and highway construction cost in Bangladesh is the highest in the world.
All money spent in public works ultimately comes from the taxpayers' hard earnings. Yet, the public hardly gets to enjoy the costly roads for long as they are not durable and get dilapidated almost as soon as they are finished. Therefore, the recurring cost of maintaining our roads in optimum condition is very high and is a drag on the country.
Roads and highways construction costs should be lowered without compromising on the quality. Bitumen imports should be checked and validated to ensure the quality and durability of the products used in our roads. The government should ban import of low quality bitumen. Quality of the roads may also be ensured by permanently black listing firms who are found using low quality products in the construction of roads.
For quality assurance there must be maintenance of strict quality checking and compliance to set standards. It is a matter of serious concern that a chemical product like bitumen can freely enter the country without proper quality testing. Also, that the importers do not have to face any test in importing bitumen is highly irregular. Concerned authorities must act strictly instead of giving lip-service to ensure permanently stopping low quality bitumen usage in the roads.