Stalls, seminars and a positive buzz
“Construction is the main driver of infrastructure development,” declares Dakshitha Thalagodapitiya, the amiable CEO of the Chamber of Construction Industry (CCI). Being the apex body of the construction industry, the chamber boasts of more than 250 corporate members.
Thalagodapitiya was addressing a press conference this week in connection with EXCON 2007, the annual trade fair of the CCI which opened yesterday at the BMICH and runs till Monday.
The purpose of the exhibition is twofold - to build capacities in the industry and to enhance its competitiveness. EXCON 2007 will unite and enlighten all principal stakeholders, including a large number of construction service providers.
The SME sector, accounting for more than 80% of the industry, is being encouraged to form consortiums, establish joint ventures and seek opportunities through mergers.
The CCI is working with the Export Development Board (EDB) to also groom larger companies to undertake overseas projects and to export professional services. At its Export Readiness Clinic, the EDB is demonstrating a software tool that can assess the readiness of prospective exporters.
The principal sponsor of the trade fair is Metso Minerals of New Zealand. Its exhibit - manufactured sand - is expected to be much sought after, being superior to river sand. Metso Minerals’ local representative, Altaf Halil, confirmed that manufactured sand has no impurities and can therefore help achieve greater strength using less cement. Besides, manufactured sand costs less than Rs 4,000 per cube, whereas the price of river sand has increased to almost 7,000 per cube lately.
This price increase has been accentuated by the restrictions on mining of river sand.
There are other stalls that help in improving quality of construction while keeping costs down. Practical Action, a British NGO, will be introducing a new and cost-effective construction technology at the trade fair. Their local arm will also conduct a seminar on reducing construction costs.
Holcim Lanka Ltd, EXCON 2007’s strategic partner, was due to launch application-based cement called ‘Holcim Piyasa’ at the fair.
This is a special mix that will be priced less than normal cement and is targeted for the rural housing market. The company’s representative, Indika Jayaweera says, “We have different cements for different applications.” He describes Holcim Lanka as the only integrated manufacturer of cement in Sri Lanka.
Talking of the hurdles confronting the industry, Thalagodapitiya highlights the shortage of construction labour. He indicates that this is being addressed through a plan to train 100,000 craftsmen in four years.