Bashundhara Group has set up the country's biggest bitumen plant in Keraniganj with an annual production capacity of a whopping 9 lakh tonnes for $143.7 million, in a development that can be viewed as emblematic of the business giant's ambitions.
Bitumen is a hydrocarbon-based substance used to build roads and highways. Currently, 90 per cent of Bangladesh's annual demand for 5 lakh tonne of bitumen is met by imports.
"Now, we don't need to import bitumen. Bashundhara can export the surplus after fulfilling domestic demand," said Finance Minister AHM Mustafa Kamal yesterday at the inauguration of the plant located on 65 acres in Pangaon area of Keraniganj.
The prospects for the plant, which is a subsidiary of Bashundhara Oil and Gas Company, are bright given Bangladesh's development goals.
With major construction and repairs of 22,000 kilometres of roads and highways under the Roads and Highways Department ongoing, local demand for the material is on the rise.
Besides, of the 354,000kms of undeveloped roads under the Local Government Engineering Department (LGED), 105,000kms have already been upgraded to paved streets.
Moreover, the government is expanding all national highways from four to six lanes. This includes district level roads, for which the use of bitumen has increased about 10 to 15 per cent annually.
With the standard requirements set by engineers given utmost priority, the premium quality Bashundhara bitumen product has penetration values of 60/70 and 80/100 and comes in various grades: cut back, emulsified, oxidised and polymer modified.
Other than meeting the local demand, Bashundhara plans to penetrate the international market for bitumen products by 2021.
The bitumen plant will provide a product that is better suited for the construction of roads and highways, according to the finance minister.
"The length of roads in our country is short. The roads are damaged during rainy seasons as imported bitumen does not suit the weather. Now, Bashundhara Group will process bitumen that suits local weather conditions," Kamal added.
The new factory will directly benefit thousands by creating jobs, said Nasrul Hamid, state minister for power, energy and mineral resources.
He also appreciated Bashundhara's initiative to increase investment in the country and create jobs.
"Bashundhara is an example of true entrepreneurship," Hamid added.
The group has established 30 factories and two major housing projects in the country, said Ahmed Akbar Sobhan, chairman of Bashundhara.
"Bangladesh's economy has developed in the last five years as there were no strikes for a single day. This fuelled robust economic growth," said Sobhan, adding that Bashundhara will set up a school in the area within one-and-a-half-years to provide quality education to locals.
M Shamim Z Bosunia, an expert on structural engineering, and Shahin Ahmed, upazila chairman of Keraniganj, also addressed the programme.