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Local steelmakers yet to utilise full strength-

Says GPH Ispat chairman

November 04, 2023 00:00:00

The country's first mass rapid transit (MRT) line has been built on an elevated structure along a 20.1-kilometre corridor. More than a dozen local manufacturing companies have supplied certain percentages of materials like cement, steel, rod, in constructing the elevated structure of MRT 6. Maintaining quality and standards for the hightech transportation system as well as ensuring timely availability of those materials have been possible thanks to these companies despite many limitations. GPH Ispat is one of such companies that supplied quality steel for the MRT 6 along with others. On the occasion of inauguration of the MRT corridor, the FE talked with its chairman Muhammed Alamgir Kabir  to know various aspects of the sector and the capacity of the local companies in engaging with development activities:

GPH Ispat Chairman Muhammed Alamgir Kabir has termed the latest infrastructural development in the construction sector as natural to accomodate the country's growing population amid scarce land. For proper land use with the growing number of commuters, the mass transport system has been planned in the capital city. The MRT 6 is the first of its kind. More elevated and underground metro rails also prove that there is no alternative to producing high quality construction materials in the country. Huge demand for modern and quality construction materials has also been created in the country and the local companies have to supply them.

Expressing satifaction over his company's engagement in the MRT 6, the chairman says as a quality steel-producing company, the GPH Group could supply high quality construciton materials for MRT 6 because of its ultramodern technology 'Quantum Arc Furnace'. With this technology, it is possible to manufacture the world-standard and top-quality steel bars and rods in Bagladesh.

The chairman claims that GPH Steel's Quantum Steel has been used in almost all major development projects in Bangladesh including the MRT 6 for its quality.

When asked about the challenges the sector faced to meet the country's ongoing infrastructure demand, Mr Kabir says the construction technique and design rapidly changed in the country during the last couple of years. Like the developed world, availability of construction materials from local sources is needed to assess before planning a project. It is necessary to ensure supply of quality materials for all mega projects. It was a great challenge for local industries 10 years before. Now the country has earned the capacity to manufacture world-standard construction materials in meeting the demand in 90 per cent of the cases.

'Surely, we need to ensure advanced materials for mega projects, which was a big challenge in our country even a few years ago. But now in 90 per cent of the cases the demand has been met,' he states.

However, Mr Kabir, who is also president of Bangladesh Cement Manufacturers Association, finds some challenges in marketing quality materials due to lack of knowledge of local consumers. According to him, consumers cannot assess quality products which are produced abiding by some specific rules and regulations while others are reluctant to follow those.

The people cannot understand the quality, according to him, because quality products are not properly monitored by the proper authorities at the production stage. Due to lack of a certification process by the local authority, the standard cannot be ascertained.

But Kabir, also Vice Chairman of Crown Cement, says acquiring certification from abroad will make supply of these materials for mega infrastructure projects time-consuming and expensive and it is unexpected, even if the country has ability to produce world-class rods and cement.

Another problem, the chairman identifies, is absence of qualified and skilled workers.

Mr Kabir says for sustainable infrastructure development, sustainable manpower development is important to reduce the level of risk and cost in all projects. He says that the construction material manufacturing companies in Bangladesh are yet to utilise their total production capacity which is still higher than the current demand in the country.

Identifying the sector's upcoming challenges due to the current political and economic situation in the country, Mr Kabir observes that it would affect the production of construction materials, including rod, significantly despite high demand.

He points out the problems like non-availability of credit, dollar crisis, continuous changes in foreign currency exchange rate, restrictions on opening letters of credit for importing raw materials and capital shortage have created challenges for the construction material producing sector. If this situation continues for few more months, the sector would suffer a severe blow, he apprehends.

He also feels the need for government policy support to deal with the challenges persisting in the sector as the sector also faces challenges arising out of the rapid change in technology globally.

The rapidly-changing technology and globalization are making the situation more and more complex, he points out. The fourth industrial revolution and artificial intelligence are the foremost challenges of them.

"But all measures of globalization are adaptable, making everything useful in time,' Muhammed Alamgir Kabir adds.

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