The government has made quality testing mandatory for all imported bitumen before releasing the item from ports.
The government has issued a gazette notification in this regard on Tuesday, amending the Imports Policy Order 2015-18 under the sub-section (1) of the Imports and Exports (Control) Act-1950.According to the gazette notification, traders must receive quality certification and approval from three government-designated institutions including Bangladesh Standards and Testing Institution (BSTI) before releasing imported bitumen from the ports.
There were allegations that low-quality bitumen is entering the country and consequently being used in road construction in absence of proper testing of imported bitumen by any designated institutions.
Bangladesh is mostly dependent on imported bitumen. The country imports 87 per cent of its total bitumen demand while state-owned Eastern Refinery produces the rest 13 per cent.
Sources at Bangladesh Petroleum Corporation (BPC) said Bangladesh has a demand of around five lakh metric tonnes of bitumen annually.
Of the total demand, ERL supplies 70,000 tonnes and the rest is imported from Middle East countries.
According to the Roads and Highways Department, Bangladesh uses two types of bitumen--- 60/70 grade is more suitable for sustainable road development.The 80/100-grade bitumen is more liquid than the 60/70 grade bitumen. During the rainy season, 80/100-grade bitumen does not sustain and roads get dilapidated sooner than the expected service life.
Bitumen is being imported in drums and bulk from different countries. Earlier, the government-designated organizations, including the BSTI, did not have any scope to check the quality of imported bitumen. The entire volume of imported bitumen used to enter the country just only based on the import orders through the customs department.
Road transport experts have also long been stressed the need for a proper quality test for imported bitumen.
The sustainability and durability of roads depend on the use of quality bitumen. But due to the use of low-quality bitumen, most of the roads get damaged or dilapidated in Bangladesh just 6-12 months into their construction, causing sufferings to commuters and waste of public money.
A huge amount of public money is wasted every year for repairing the dilapidated and damaged roads built with low-quality bitumen.
Sources said around Tk 2,000 crore is spent every year on expensive road repairs thanks to the poor durability of roads and highways.
Bitumen is a binding organic material made from the by-products of refined crude oil. It is widely used in road construction because it is easy to produce, reusable, non-toxic, and a strong binder.