Bamboo and soft wood worth around Tk 10 crore have been rotting at Karnaphuli Paper Mill (KPM) for over two years, after production of pulp was halted following “technical glitches” in machines at the pulp mill.
KPM stopped procuring bamboo and soft wood from 2014, when the machines first started malfunctioning. Since then, the authorities concerned began importing pulp wood and using rejected and recycled paper to keep the mill functional.
The machines in the pulp mill that are currently out of use are-- the chipper, the digestor and those in the washing section, chemical recovery plant and chlorine plant.
As all these went out of order, the bamboo and soft wood collection stopped and consequently the production capacity of the mill also nosedived.
In its heydays of 2007-9, the mill was profitable as production reached 80 to 100 tonnes and workers also received a portion of the dividends. However, since the machines started breaking down, the production came down five to 10 tonnes.
Contacted M M Abdul Kader, managing director of KPM, told The Daily Star that since joining as the managing director, he had initially found only two parts of the mill not operating.
Due to technical glitches, the digester (the machine that crushes bamboo and soft wood) and the chemical recovery plant remained broken for the last one and half years, he said. However, The Daily Star could not know the nature of the “glitches”.
“The chemical recovery plant is used to the recover the chemical we use to produce paper. The plant is very important as it reduces our cost of production,” he said.
“We are now producing paper by using imported pulp or used paper for our production.”
He added that in 2017 an Indian company had been assigned for the repair works and the authorities were hopeful that normal production would resume within months.
He, however, denied that the bamboo and soft woods were left to rot, arguing that the raw materials seemed rotten from the outside but they would be able to use it.
However, preferring anonymity, employees who work at the chipping section (where bamboo and soft woods are crushed to make pulp) said that the machine which crushed the bamboo and soft wood to make pulp was left deserted after it stopped functioning.
The bamboo and wood which were supplied by the contractors were left to rot for the last three years, they claimed.
Meanwhile, the suppliers who won the tender to supply the bamboo and soft wood are yet to receive their full payment. The authority owes TK 10 crore to the association of contractors, said Farid Ahmed, an advisor of the association.
Farid, also one of the owners of Chowdhury Enterprise, which used to supply the bamboo and soft wood, told The Daily Star that KPM stopped collecting raw materials three years ago.
“Last time, we supplied at least 10 thousands metric tonnes of bamboo and soft woods. Against the consignment we received half of the money and yet to receive the full due,” he said.
When asked, the mill authorities said they would clear the payments soon.
Ten years ago, KPM used to produce 100 tonnes of paper per day, using at least 1.5 lakhs metric tonnes of bamboo and soft wood.
It gradually came down to 24 thousand metric tonnes per year later. Finally, the authority stopped collecting bamboo and soft wood.