KATHMANDU, Dec 24: The Parliamentary Public Accounts Committee (PAC) on Monday asked the government to continue with the old standards in cement manufacturing, reversing the ministry's recent move to implement the new rule that allows the manufacturers to produce and sell the construction material in low quality.
Previously, Nepal Bureau of Standards and Metrology (NBSM) with direction from the Ministry of Industry, Commerce and Supplies had a lenient policy on the quality of domestically produced cement, giving some leeway to manufacturers. Last July, the ministry without receiving approval from the Cabinet asked its concerned agency to implement the new rule. In the revised standards, the bureau increased the threshold of magnesium present in cement to 6% from 5%. Similarly, the bureau also revised the insoluble residue limit to 4% from 2%.
Given the presence of large amount of magnesium in cement, it will make the construction material to take longer time for consolidation while it also creates a risk of producing crack in the cement used structures, according to experts. The parliamentary committee on Monday summoned officials of the ministry and the NBSM for the clarifications.
Talking to Republica, NBSM Director General Bishwo Babu Pudasaini however defended that the cement having up to 6% of the insoluble materials are being used in the construction work even in the developed countries.
With the ministry falling in pressure from the cement manufacturers to revise the standards, the government agency is said to have implemented the new standards. Limestone, an essential raw material of cement, found in many parts of the country is reported to contain large amount of the insoluble materials. The cement manufacturers have been demanding the government to revise the limit of insoluble materials citing that they have to bear heavy costs for extracting the materials.
The bureau was supposed to implement the new standards from November 17. However, the plan was put on hold after the parliamentary committee expressed its concern citing the malpractice in the cement quality.
The bureau had also moved to make the manufacturers mandatory to produce cement in grades 43 mega pascals and 53 mega pascals to make the domestic products comply with the international standards. Currently, most of the cement manufactured in the country is of 33 mega pascals grade, according to the bureau. “The high grades cements have more compressive strength which is considered suitable in the development works,” said Pudasaini.
He said the 33 grade cement have now become obsolete in the construction works. “Most of the domestic cement manufacturers have already upgraded their capacity to manufacture cements in higher grades.”
According to the Cement Manufacturers Association, there are around 61 cement factories operating in the country. With an increasing attraction in the manufacturing of cement, the country is heading to be self-reliant in the construction material.
As per the association's record, the annual demand of cement in the country is 800 million tons while total production capacity of the domestic cement factories currently stands at almost 1,200 million tons per annum. According to Nepal Rastra Bank statistics, the country spent Rs 1.58 billion to import cement in the first four months of this fiscal year, a fall of 76% in the import bills in the same period last year.