Country may face shortage of construction materials

  • Crisis could trigger spike in prices once rebuilding activities start gathering pace
- RUPAK D SHARMA, Kathmandu

Oct 14, 2016-

The apex body that is overseeing post-earthquake recovery works has warned that the country may face a shortage of boulders, gravel, sand, wood and bricks once reconstruction activities gather pace, stoking fears of spike in prices of these crucial construction aggregates and materials.

The country will require millions of tonnes of boulders, gravel, sand, wood and bricks once construction of hundreds of thousands of private houses, school buildings and other physical infrastructure picks up. 

But production capacity of existing plants that churn out these products is limited. Also, the government has not opened up all the quarries to extract these materials. And these factors are likely to create a shortage of construction aggregates and materials in the coming days, hitting those engaged in post-earthquake reconstruction works hard.

The devastating earthquakes of April and May 2015 destroyed around 800,000 private houses and 2,656 government buildings, according to the National Reconstruction Authority (NRA). The quakes also caused damage to around 200,000 private houses, 3,622 government buildings, 8,000 school buildings, 1,100 health centres and 700 historical monuments. These destructions occurred mostly in 14 of 75 districts of the country.

To rebuild infrastructure damaged or destroyed by quakes, the country needs at least 2.43 million cubic metres of gravels, the NRA has said. But the supply of this construction aggregate stands at mere 0.58 million cubic metres, or 24 percent of the total demand. Also, demand for sand for reconstruction works hovers around 6.43 million cubic metres, but its supply falls short by 4.15 million cubic metres, says the latest NRA report. The demand-supply gap is same with wood as well, with demand standing at around 4.64 million cubic metres and supply hovering around 2.56 million cubic metres. 

In case of bricks, demand stands at 16.14 billion units, whereas supply falls short by 6.9 billion units, says the report, which was prepared after analysing the production capacity of existing plants that produce these construction materials and considering the option of recycling construction materials extracted from the quake’s rubble.

This mismatch in demand and supply has been reported at a time when over 400,000 households have obtained the first instalment of the housing grant from the government to rebuild houses destroyed by quakes. 

“We are well aware of the problem and are holding discussions with the umbrella bodies of the private sector and state-owned enterprises like National Trading Corporation to address this issue,” NRA Deputy Spokesperson Bhishma Kumar Bhusal told the Post.

But this problem, according to the private sector, is not as severe as portrayed by the NRA. “There is no dearth of rocks in the country. These rocks could be converted into boulders and gravels in no time provided that the government allows more firms to operate crusher units,” Jayaram Lamichhane, immediate past president of the Federation of Contractors’ Association of Nepal, told 

the Post.

The problem related to potential supply deficit of bricks, on the other hand, could be addressed by operating brick kilns in the Tarai at full capacity, while shortage of wood could be fulfilled by using aluminum wherever possible, Lamichhane said.

The options laid by Lamichhane do make sense, but an NRA executive member caveated the alternatives with certain issues. 

 “It’s not that easy to implement them, as the law has barred extraction of natural resources from various protected and forested areas,” NRA Executive Committee Member Chandra Bahadur Shrestha told the Post.

Published: 14-10-2016 08:17

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