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Use of substandard steel bars poses severe risk to infrastructure safety




  • Pakistan steel market is flooded with poor quality substandard steel posing severe risk to infrastructure safety, according to stakeholders here. Despite the fact that our major cities like Karachi, Islamabad and Quetta lie on major earthquake fault lines, Pakistan Standards and Quality Control Authority (PSQCA) is showing criminal negligence by allowing production and marketing of un-approved and substandard steel bars in the country endangering our national infrastructure, they said. 

    Although PSQCA is not enforcing the approved quality standards in steel production and marketing, it is issuing temporary release certificates against import of non-licensed steel bars from non-certified foreign steel manufacturers. 

    Allowing the usage of substandard scrap steel bars in the construction of mega infrastructure projects of national importance to general household construction in a seismic zone like Pakistan results in collapse of infrastructure and buildings as has been witnessed a number of times in the country. 

    An industry source said poor quality re-bars are flooding Pakistani markets which are used in construction of mega infrastructure, adding that steel rebar quality should be of utmost importance in construction, which could only be produced by billets and quality focused mills. 

    According to PSQCA standards, ASTM 615, 706 and BS4449 are the only allowable re-bars to be used in construction activities providing safety to infrastructure. He warned the architects to take quality standards very seriously as poor quality construction materials especially steel material could lead to serious accidents resulting in major loss of lives which could lead to legal actions against builders, developers, and pose unwarranted risk to the lives of innocent residents living in buildings. 

    Last year, ship breaking activity recorded over 1.5 million tons out of which around 85% of ship scrap was directly recycled into inferior quality steel reinforcement bar termed Sarya. According to Department of Civil Engineering, NED University of Engineering and Technology, “Steel re-bars manufactured from ship scrap materials are likely not to exhibit adequate deformation capacity or ductility.” 

    The chemistry of ship scrap is often unknown, though often for commercial reasons this scrap is rolled directly into reinforcement steel bars. Naturally, this steel does not have consistency in its chemical composition and the physical properties of this steel cannot be guaranteed although it is available at fairly low prices in the market. Quality steel re-bars could only be produced by billets, he said. 

    Source further said that several countries across the world have banned inferior quality steel to protect their infrastructure from collapsing and damages. Qatar’s Ministry of Environment announced some guidelines regarding re-bar to improve the quality of building and construction materials in the country. Accordingly, Qatar has banned imports of re-bar below grade 500, indicating that the test report for re-bar should be issued by an accredited laboratory and be valid for three months. 

    China’s central government departments planned to stop production of low grade HRB335 re-bar. Meanwhile, China’s Ministry of Industry & Information Technology (MIIT) also plans to ban and eliminate use of HRB335 re-bar by end-2013. 

    We have already witnessed the devastating effects of poor re-bar used in construction in the country. A British architect of Pakistani origin, wanted over the collapse of a building in Pakistan in 2005 that killed 78 people during a massive earthquake, has been arrested in Greece recently. Margalla Towers, a 10-storey apartment block in the F-10 sector of Islamabad, was a major building in the Pakistani capital that collapsed in the quake, the source said. 

    Copyright Business Recorder, 2013

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