A less expensive building brick made from a blend of ordinary port land cement (OPC) and fly ash mixed with the Kgalagadi sand created by Botswana Institute for Technology Research and Innovation (BITRI) is expected to assist in the fight illegal sand mining.
The BITRI Building materials team has made use of a technology to develop the Kgalagadi Sand Building Block (KSBB). The Kgalagadi sand covers up to 75 percent of Botswana and is a very abundant resource in the country, but currently cannot be used for construction purposes because of its fine texture.
As a result people have over the time been forced to import sand that is suitable for construction from areas that had it in abundance, forcing them to spend a lot of money in the process. Others have, as a cost cutting measure resorted to mining sand from undesignated areas leaving hazardous barrow pits and damaging the environment.
The Kgalagadi Sand building block according to Dr Esau Maluku, who is overseeing the project at BITRI has currently passed two Botswana Bureau of Standards (BOBS) tests and has several standards accreditation from Botswana Qualifications Authority (BQA).
One more interesting trait about KSBB is that the fly ash used in it, is sourced from Morupule Mines. The ash which has been otherwise treated as an environmental hazard was in the past discarded away. “We have put into use what Morupule mine has for a long time been treating as hazardous waste,” said Dr Maluku.
Concrete made with fly ash is stronger and more durable than traditional concrete hence the brick comes highly recommended by Dr Masuku. The fly ash used in the trial KSBB brick is sourced from Morupule A mine, and currently constitute 40 percent of the cement blend. According to Dr Maluku they have completed trials on Morupule B fly ash and have discovered that it contains a higher amount of calcium oxide, which could now mean that the content of fly ash in the cement blend could go up. “This will be good for the brick because like I said fly ash is readily available at Morupule, and unlike the OPC, It is not as expensive," he said.
As it now, all is done and According BITRI Chief Executive Officer Nelson Torto, they have partnered with government to make use of this cost cutting initiative in their poverty eradication program. “Our talks are at a final stage and we hope they will soon make use of the KSBB to roll out housing to underprivileged remote dwellers,” said Torto.
The KSBB is one of the several projects to come out of the BITRI’s priority thematic research areas which according to BITRI CEO are geared at reaching out to people at nano level and using technology and research to bring solutions to the lives of ordinary Batswana. “We try to innovate in a manner that will as much as possible make use of local materials to ensure efficiency and affordability,” said Torto.
Other projects include the Seding street lights/Seding light, which is a solar powered and environmentally friendly. It has already been rolled out to Phuduhudu and Bere villages. There is also the coal to liquid project which allows coal to be utilised as an alternative to oil by converting coal to liquid fuels. The set up according to Torto is still at the initial stage and is expected to be fully operational by the end of the year.
BITRI held their first media engagement seminar on Thursday, where they shared their projects, new developments and future programmes and projects.