Government officials, experts argue over proposed cement standardsThe cement lobby doesn’t want the grade changed, and the issue has become politicised, officials said.
Several specialists summoned by the parliamentary Public Accounts Committee on Wednesday urged the government to follow the existing Cement Standard 1997 because the new standard has proposed increasing the magnesium oxide and insoluble residue content of cement. They said that doing this would erode the strength of the building material.
The Nepal Bureau of Standards and Metrology had intended to examine and grade locally produced cement from November 17. So far, manufacturers have been doing it themselves using Indian parameters. But before the bureau could go ahead with its plan, the House panel directed it to shelve it.
The new Cement Standard 2019 proposes to increase the magnesium oxide content in cement from 5 to 6 percent, Rojnath Pandey, spokesperson for the Parliament Secretariat, told the Post. The amount of insoluble residue has been proposed to be increased by 2 percent to 4 percent.
“During the discussion, cement experts informed the committee that increasing the percentage of magnesium oxide and insoluble residue could reduce the concrete strength of any building,” said Pandey. “The cement technicians and engineers have asked that we retain the previous standard.”
He said that the House committee would soon meet with government officials including the secretary of the Ministry of Industry and representatives of the bureau to discuss the matter further.
Bishwo Babu Pudasaini, director general of the bureau, rejected claims that changing the standards would lower the quality of cement. “It’s not true. The proposed standard will not reduce the quality of cement.”
He said that India, China and the US had upped the magnesium oxide content to 6 percent. “Our cement quality is below international standards.”
Currently, there is no grading system for the product in Nepal, and domestic factories are using quality parameters set by India. Once the grading system is implemented, Nepali cement will be classified into 33, 43 and 53 grades on a par with international standards.
Most cement factories in Nepal produce 33 grade cement. Cement is categorised into grades according to its strength.
According to the bureau, 33 grade cement is used for construction of homes and other small construction projects. Similarly, 43 grade cement is used as required by engineers according to its capacity while 53 grade cement is used for the construction of mega infrastructure.
Pudasaini said that the cement lobby didn't want them to act on the quality of the product. “We are moving in the right direction, but there is political interference trying to stop us. We are ready to welcome any decision made by the parliamentary committee.”
Manoj Upadhyaya, director of the Physical Standard Formulation Section of the Nepal Bureau of Standards and Metrology, said the revision was made after taking into account all technical and chemical aspects.
The revision was necessary due to increasing demand for high quality cement, he said. “It’s not true that a higher magnesium oxide content will affect the quality of cement. Its strength is determined by the cooling process.”
He added that the magnesium oxide content had been increased to 6 percent only for 33 grade cement. “The magnesium oxide content for 43 and 53 grades has been kept at the current level of 5 percent.”