Due to low-quality bitumen being used in road constructions, our roads get dilapidated sooner than expected, wasting huge sums of public money. The substandard bitumen used in our roads is mostly imported, as only 13 per cent of the substance is produced by the state owned Eastern Refinery. Though most of the bitumen used in Bangladesh’s roads comes with ‘made in UAE’ tag, it was found that the UAE does not produce bitumen. Bitumen from neighbouring countries is refined in that country only.
Due to faults in our bitumen import process, it is difficult to identify the origin of the procured bitumen as it is traded through third parties. Investigations have unearthed that adulterations are done by mixing kerosene and other materials to reduce the price of the bitumen. This is done at a third country before the imported bitumen reaches Bangladesh port. Such duplicity is possible due to lack of strict control over bitumen import and information of the international market. But it is not understandable why the authorities claim that without knowledge of the source of the material the quality of the product is difficult to ascertain.Furthermore, lack of warehousing space leads to the imported bitumen barrels to be kept under the open sky for months and even years, leading to further deterioration of the already compromised quality of the final product used on our roads. During monsoon water seeps into the bitumen barrels further damaging the quality of the thing. Experts opine that the quality of bitumen also deteriorates after prolonged exposure to air due to prolonged storage.
The Ministry of Road Transport and Bridges has asked the authorities concerned to ensure the use of domestically produced thick bitumen instead of substandard imported bitumen. But due to lack of proper monitoring, the import of adulterated bitumen has not stopped yet.
It is obvious after these investigations, for quality roads in the country we must ensure the quality of the bitumen used. As we cannot ensure quality of the imported bitumen, we must therefore seriously consider increasing the production of bitumen in the country.
But there must be strict monitoring of the bitumen being used in our roads even if it is made in Bangladesh to ensure quality bitumen 100 per cent free from adulteration.