Europe / Middle East / Africa
Exploring cement-based option for sustainable road construction
May, 15 2012
(Nigeria) -- With only 20 percent of the well over 300,000 kilometres of road in Nigeria paved and in good motorable condition, the state of the roads infrastructure in the country is not only critical but also worrisome. It is critical and worrisome because the importance of roads in any economy cannot be over-emphasised.
The history of road construction in the country has been almost the same in the past 50 years which is why, regrettably, most of the roads that were constructed even after the civil war in the 70s are today in deplorable conditions not much for lack of maintenance as it is for the construction materials used.
In virtually all of these, asphalt and bitumen have been the dominant construction materials and these materials are not sustainable in the long run. This is why, in the past 12 years of democratic governance in the country, much of the noise about dividends of democracy has centred around rehabilitation and reconstruction of roads that were built about 25-30 years ago.
Mike Onolememem, Minister of Works, has done well in the past 12 months of the President Jonathan administration, but he has no record of one new road constructed. Within these 12 months, billions of contracts have been awarded for the reconstruction of existing roads.
Contract for thea reconstruction of Apapa Oshodi Expressway, for instance, a 27 kilometre long that was constructed between 1975-1978, was awarded in 2009 for about N6 billion.
The expressway, the only major route to the two major sea ports in the country, has, in recent times, garnered some notoriety for unending traffic gridlock that has led to stress and huge economic loss suffered by individuals and companies that have their businesses at the ports and along the expressway.
The Lagos-Ibadan Expressway which has also, in recent time, become a death trap, was also constructed in the 70s and has been concessioned with a reconstruction cost of almost N100 billion. There are other numerous examples. It is against this backdrop that stakeholders in the roads construction industry are pushing for a new approach to roads infrastructure provision with strong emphasis on cement as a viable option for its sustainability, safety, durability and cost-effectiveness.
Cement manufacturing and supply had been a big challenge in this country until the backward integration policy of 2002 which is responsible for the good news coming from that very important sector of the economy today. Local cement production has jumped from three million tons per annum in 2002 to 28 million tons in 2012. This is a phenomenal development that raises hope and conviction that the cement option for road construction is possible if explored and adopted by both public and private sector operators in the roads sector.
Interestingly, Nigeria has a large deposit of limestone which is the major component of cement manufacture and virtually every geopolitical zone in the country has their share of this free gift from nature. This explains the siting of cement manufacturing plants in most of these regions.
Ibeshe and Ewekoro plants are in Ogun State, South West; Obajana in Kogi, North Central; Sokoto Cement in Sokoto State which is North West; Ashaka Cement in Gombe which is North East; Calabar Cement in Akwa Ibom which is South South, and Benue Cement in Benue State, North Central. Cement manufacturers under the aegis of Cement Manufacturers Association of Nigeria (CMAN) assures that there will be enough supply for cement-based roads.
Demerits of asphalt roads
Due to large coverage and ability to provide door to door services, road transportation is most patronized among other modes of transportation especially in developing nations like Nigeria. As asphalt remains the popular material used to pave driveways and roads, recent advances in road technology has shown the disadvantages of deploying asphalt (otherwise considered a flexible pavement) in road construction of major roads in the country. In the light of this, stakeholders in the construction industry have called on government to reconsider its current approach to road construction which is largely asphalt-based, pushing for concrete-based option, as the country is tending towards self-sufficiency in cement production.
According to them, Nigeria has poor quality roads, explaining that less than 0.1 percent of roads in Nigeria are cement-based, compared to 40 percent in developed countries.
At the National Conference on Exploring Cement Based Option for Sustainable Road Construction in Nigeria organised by the Cement Manufacturers Association of Nigeria (CMAN) in conjunction with BusinessDay, Joe Hudson, Managing Director/CEO, Lafarge Cement WAPCO Nigeria Plc, noted that as against Nigeria’s asphalt option for road construction, the rest of the world are changing to the new approach which is cement-based.
“The technology being used for road construction across the world has attracted a lot of inputs from cement-based materials as against the use of asphalt, and Nigeria needs to imbibe this new approach to road construction”, he said, adding that “the benefits of using cement-based materials are enormous”.
Robert Rodden, Director of Technical Services and Product Development, American Concrete Pavement Association, in his presentation on Concrete Pavements – The Global Experience, disclosed that the use of concrete pavements is desirable, explaining that it is more durable and requires less maintenance than asphalt and is becoming increasingly popular globally.
“In the last five years, there has been a radical shift towards the use of concrete-based pavements across the world largely because they last longer and cost less in the long-term”, he noted.
On whether concrete-based pavements are robust to the different soil-types in the country, Rodden explained that with proper design, analysis and construction, concrete-based solutions can still be effectively utilised.
Meanwhile, according to the Nigerian Environmental Study Team (NEST), chemicals discharged from occupational activities (such as Hot Mix Asphalt plant) could cause severe discomfort and misery and may cause cancers to animals and man after a long period of time of exposure.
Apart from workers of the industry, members of the community in which the facility is located are also exposed to the hazard. Meanwhile, the inhaling of unclean air, which occurs as a result of emission of pollutants during production and discharge of input materials, may cause such ailments as acute bronchitis, common cold, pneumonia, emphysema and even asthma. Some of these ailments could be fatal.
During asphalt production, gaseous pollutants are emitted into the atmosphere. These pollutants, when inhaled continuously and absorbed by the lungs, reduce the oxygen carrying capacity of the blood and tolerance to exercise. It also impairs mental function and aggravates cardiovascular diseases. Prolonged exposure to carbon monoxide diminishes visual perception and the ability to perform intellectual task.
Following Global Competitiveness report 2010-11 released by the World Economic Forum which revealed that Nigeria ranks low in the quality of its infrastructure globally, which significantly impacts the ease of doing business locally, road experts have pointed out that greed has forced client or client’s representative to compromise with the contractor, which enables the contractor to do shoddy jobs.
Beauty of concrete pavement
Robert Rodden, director of Technical Services & Product Development, American Concrete Pavement Association, told the august audience of cement industry stakeholders, government functionaries and business chieftains that concrete pavements offer the longest life and lowest lifetime cost of any improved roadway type in the United States of America. Rodden hinted that the US has by far the most lane kilometers of paved roadway, yet has not added any new roadways in many years as most of the money spent on roadways is on maintenance or reconstruction of existing sections.
According to Rodden, “The US, France, and Spain are all very high. Some will make an argument that this is nothing but great news because having such high volumes of paved surfaces for each person in the country allows for maximum personal freedom and ease of mobility of persons and goods.
Rodden however noted that to make the economy grow more, there is need to build more roadways to aid in the movement of people and goods.
“Consider the kilometers of paved roadway per square kilometer of area for each of these countries. This greatly changes the perspective and adds a lot of value to the data. Nigeria has a similar average paved roadway density to Canada and Russia. Japan has the highest density of roadways of these countries, with almost 3 km of roadway for every square kilometer of area.
A cursory look at concrete pavement shows that it gets stronger with age. While many materials degrade over time, the cement in concrete continues to hydrate over time as long as moisture of some form is present. This allows concrete to really stand the test of time.
He continued “Precast pavement technology is no longer unique to the US. It has been used in a couple countries with different levels of complexity. The process used in the US can be as simple as only using perfectly flat slabs to as complex as creating custom curvature for each panel for areas such as ramps.
“ One other item that is worth mentioning is that fixed form, slipform, and precast panels can all be used as new construction or reconstruction, as most all the photos thus far have shown, or they can each be used to overlay an existing asphalt pavement, brick pavement, composite pavement, or whatever already exists. This can prove very cost effective because it uses the existing pavement that has been very well compacted under traffic as the base for the new pavement surface.
“Although excess moisture and poor drainage has been shown to be detrimental to pavement performance in the past, current concrete pavement designs in the US are less susceptible to moisture damage (improved materials, widespread use of dowels, etc.); asphalt pavements also shown to be less susceptible than old designs but only if thickness is greatly increased.”
He however pointed out that because a dollar today isn’t worth a dollar in the future due to inflation, there was need to adjust the costs to their present worth.
“If this doesn’t make sense, consider if you had to make an investment today for some sort of repair next year. If you need $100 next year, how much do you save? The same is done for the asphalt section. While the asphalt’s initial construction cost is 15percent less than the concrete, the concrete pavement ends up saving the owners (that is, the taxpayers) almost 30 percent over this analysis period.
“Even with a shorter analysis period of about 30-50 years, concrete would have been the more cost-effective solution. So it’s up to us as the decision makers, owner, engineers, and others involved in taking taxpayer dollars to invest in such roadways to consider both the initial and future costs to give the real owners… the taxpayers… the best investment of their money,” Rodden concluded
Case for cement-based materials
A robust and sustainable transportation infrastructure is a critical requirement for economic development. It is for this reason that countries invest huge amounts of financial resources in providing an extensive road transport network.
However, the need for a robust road network infrastructure is a lot higher considering that over 90 percent of all inland transportation is by road. The reality however is that the road network infrastructure across the country is not only grossly inadequate, but in a total state of collapse. And this has impacted negatively on productivity and development.
According to experts, the poor states of our roads are largely attributable to the poor maintenance culture, which is due in part to the high maintenance costs associated with our roads types. They noted that there are two major types of road pavements in are in use around the world-flexible asphalt and cement concrete.
Joseph Makoju, Chairman of the Cement Manufacturer’s Association of Nigeria (CMAN), noted that the technology being used for road construction across the world in the last five years has attracted a larger input from cement-based materials than asphalt, largely on account of the many benefits of the former over the later.
“For example over 70 percent of the roads constructed in China in the last four years, totaling 640,000 KMs, were constructed using cement concrete. At the moment, about 40 percent of the roads in developed countries are made of cement concrete, whereas it is less than 0.1 percent in Nigeria,” Makoju pointe4d out.
Makoju however explained that cement concrete roads have extreme durability and last longer than flexible asphalt.
“The design life of concrete roads is between 35 and 50 years as against the 20 to 25 years for asphalt”, he said.
In addition, other experts at the conference noted that cement concrete roads require less maintenance, are more environmental-friendly, and are more robust to pressure from water, oils and grease, than asphalt roads, which according to them is why airport ramps are paved with cement concrete. They also noted that cement concrete roads, unlike asphalt, are easily adaptable even on the poorest of soils.
Lending his view, Ette Etteh, Chairman Ette Aro and Partners, explained that cement concrete roads are more suitable for heavily trafficked roads with heavy axle roads because of their wider load distribution capacity, adding that such roads like Lagos – Shagamu – Ore – Benin – Asaba; - Onitsha – Enugu, Lagos – Ibadan, Ilorin – Abuja – Kaduna – kano; Enugu – Aba – Port Harcourt, etc, would need concrete cement pavements Etteh further noted that while cement concrete roads may attract higher initial costs than asphalt pavements, the life cycle cost analysis – which takes into account the initial capital cost of construction and the cost of maintenance and rehabilitation to keep the road in a serviceable state – suggests that in the long-run, cement concrete roads are more cost-efficient.
Financing options for roads development
Nigeria’s Road Network is ranked 116th in the World in terms of size and efficiency. Road statistics are not up to date but there are 39,000 kilometres (km) of Federal roads linking every part of the country. The States and Local Council roads are 25,000km and 129,000 km respectively. With private roads and an ever-expanding network in towns, the total length of all roads in Nigeria is put at 193,000km. Prior to independence in 1960, the length of 11,000km was constructed to link every part of Nigeria. The three regions at the time, and later 12 states in 1976, constructed their respective network of roads.
However, for the Third National Development Plan Period (1975-80), the Federal Military Government took over 17,000km of roads from the 12 states at the time, bringing the network to 28,000km.
The Federal Government took bold steps to develop the interstate network to international standards. The ambitious construction programme involved 239 highway projects, consisting of 13,000km of new construction, 5,000km of asphaltic concrete overlay, and six major dual carriageway bridges with a combined length of 8,053 metres over five rivers (Niger, Benue, Cross and Katsina Ala).
It also included completion of the design of the 1,100km of original federal highways, and the development of one-third of the 17,000km (taken from the states) to Federal standards. It was the golden age of road construction in Nigeria. However, by 1980, with the downturn in the global economy and unavoidable inflation, many of the road projects could not be completed due to lack of funds.
However, inadequate funding (underinvestment) is been identified as one of the major challenges facing Nigeria’s Road Systems, including poor quality of construction, inadequate/non-existent drainage systems and a lack of maintenance culture.
With ongoing transport sector reforms in the country, the government has adopted a Public Private Partnership framework in alignment with global trends in transportation infrastructure development as well as regulations (PPP Policy Framework, National Transport Commission Bill which is in progress) to revamp the sector.
The country is embracing the idea of concessioning infrastructure including roads, although development economists have pointed to the fact that developed nations used public funds to develop their basic infrastructure before they adopted the option of concessioning.
We have seen the outcome of the first road concession, the Lagos-Ibadan Expressway, since it was handed to a private company in April 2009. The Lekki-Epe Expressway Concession, Murtala Muhammed Airport, Terminal II Concession, Sea Port Terminals Concession at Lagos Port , Tin Can Island Port, Container Terminal, Apapa, Federal Ocean Terminal, Onne are good examples of closed deals to mention a few.
The experience is likely to serve as a reference for future concessions in Nigeria and other countries of Africa. African infrastructure finance market opportunity is sizeable, with nearly US$30 billion in potential annual deal flow.
A number of credible financing sources with strong existing appetite for Nigeria-specific risk may be approached to participate in the financing of road projects, subject to innovative structuring, and due-diligence.
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