Birgunj cement factories on the verge of closure


Jan 2, 2018-Cement production has been badly hit in Parsa-Bara corridor following halt in imports of clinker from Nepal-India border point in Birgunj.

Imports of clinker from Raxaul, an Indian town located on Nepal-India border, have stopped since December 22 after locals complained about air pollution and health hazards due to transportation of the crucial raw material used in production of cement.

Following this, the dry port located in Birgunj had allowed traders to use its facility to bring in cargoes of clinker and other raw materials used in production of cement. But the government prevented the dry port operator from doing so after locals of Birgunj complained of pollution.

This has left 13 cement factories in Parsa-Bara corridor high and dry. Most of the factories in the corridor are currently using whatever clinker they have in their warehouse and small quantity of raw material that is entering the country to manufacture cement. This has prevented cement plants from operating at full capacity.

Most of the cement factories in the corridor fully depend on India for raw materials like clinker, coals, gypsum and fly ash. The raw materials are transported to Nepal from Odisha, Madhya Pradesh and Assam.

A few cement factories located in the corridor, such as Shalimar, produce clinker on their own. But the quantity of the raw material they produce is very small.

“The clinker we produce meets only 10 percent of our demand,” said Ashok Vaidya, manager of Shalimar Cement. Factories like Shalimar have the option of increasing clinker production, but they have not been able to do so because of high cost involved in setting up of plant to produce the raw material.

“If the situation remains like this, cement factories in Birgunj will have no option but to terminate operation because clinker stored in our warehouses can only meet demand of three to 10 days,” said Umesh Chandra Thakur, managing director of Narayani Cement.

Amidst this gloomy scenario, good news is that clinker loaded on Indian trains prior to December 22, when supply of raw materials came to a halt, have arrived at Raxaul. “Clinker was loaded on nine train rakes prior to December 22,” said Manohar Rajpal, a trader of coal and construction materials. “Of the nine rakes, seven have arrived at railway station in Raxaul. The remaining rakes will arrive in a day or two.” Each railway rake carries 3,700 tonnes of clinker.

This supply will definitely help cement factories to raise production for several days. “But what should we do after that,” said Thakur.

Clinker imports have lately gone up in Nepal due to jump in demand for cement, as post-earthquake reconstruction works and other construction activities have started gathering pace. But Nepal will not have to rely on Indian clinker forever because the country has a huge deposit of limestone.

Lately, foreign companies have started eyeing these deposits and are investing in Nepal to extract the mineral.

Published: 02-01-2018 08:34

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