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Sunday, Feb 10, 2002

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Road rubberisation emerging as new hope for growers

Aravindan

Rubberised road surface need repairs only at long intervals. The cost of repairs is just 30 per cent of what is required to maintain asphalted roads.

KOTTAYAM, Feb. 9

ROAD rubberisation is emerging as a new source of rubber consumption in the country following a recommendation by the Indian Road Congress (IRC) to use bitumen in road construction.

IRC, after analysing the results of a recent Rubber Board study, has expressed in favour of rubberising Indian roads, which provide better grip for tyres and avoid skidding of vehicles.

The Highway Research Institute, Chennai, the Kochi Refineries and the Rubber Research Institute of India jointly conducted a recent study to assess the merits of road rubberisation.

It found that rubberised bitumen was able to overcome the disadvantages of bitumen roads, which melt during summer and become brittle during winter.

With a view to popularising this aspect, the Rubber Board has constituted a committee to discuss various measures with the Central and State Governments.

As a result, the Union Ministry of Shipping and Surface Transport has issued instructions to all State Governments to use the material at least in 10 per cent of the road works to start with.

However, this directive remains largely unimplemented owing to local unavailability of rubberised bitumen.

Experiments conducted in developed countries have proved that a 5 per cent saving in fuel consumption has been achieved in vehicles running on rubberised roads, apart from lowered maintenance cost.

The expenditure on laying one km of rural road which is generally of 3 metre in width, using rubberised bitumen has been calculated as Rs 2,58,482 in Indian conditions at current cost.

In this, the value of rubber latex comes to only Rs 8,270, which represents only 3.2 of the total cost.

Along with the processing cost in the refinery, additional expenditure on rubber modification of bitumen has been estimated at 5 per cent.

As rubberised road surface need repairs only at long intervals, the cost of repairs is also low_ just 30 per cent of what is required to maintain asphalted roads.

For bitumen modification of PWD road, the requirement of rubber is about 200 kg.

Even if the entire 65,000 tonnes of annual requirement of bitumen modification in Kerala is met, rubber consumption would be only around 1,300 tonnes.

Despite a requirement of only 2 per cent of rubber for bitumen modification, the planting community has reposed a lot of faith in its enhanced consumption in road works.

To popularise rubberisation of roads, the Rubber Board has come up with a scheme of providing assistance to local self-government institutions such as municipalities and panchayats.

The assistance is in the form of meeting the cost portion of rubber and rendering assistance in surface dressing rubberised bitumen.

In order to facilitate the availability of rubberised bitumen, refineries have been asked to equip themselves.

Already apart from the Kochi Refinery, four more rubberised bitumen-processing units have come up in Chennai, Visakhapatanam, Mumbai and Delhi.

Another is under construction in the North-East region.

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