The Designated Reference Institute for Chemical Measurement (DRiCM), an associate research centre of the Bangladesh Council of Scientific and Industrial Research (BCSIR), has pioneered and is currently carrying out research and providing services in the field of chemical measurement, a science defined as ‘chemical metrology’. It is the first and most prestigious reference institute for chemical measurement in Bangladesh.
DRiCM began its distinguished journey to establish and disseminate the Unbroken Chain of Traceability in Chemical Measurement at laboratories of Bangladesh under the International System of Units (SI) of the BIPM (Bureau International des Poids et Mesures) in Paris.
DRiCM was established through an office order, dated February 20, 2012, by the ministry of science and technology under the authority entrusted to the BCSIR through the BCSIR Ordinance Act, 1978.
Prime Minister Sheikh Hasina had inaugurated DRiCM on June 10, 2012, on the premises of the BCSIR.
The institute had to deal with many questions: for instance, why the markets for shrimp, frozen foods and vegetables, medicines, chemical products, tea, leather or plastic products and small machinery were not at the expected levels despite the huge demand for such Bangladeshi products in Europe, North America, Japan, Australia or the Middle East.
The test reports and certificates on product quality were not considered reliable and were not trusted in those countries. Naturally, the question arose as to why the country’s local testing laboratories were not properly accredited in accordance with international guidelines.
Bangladeshi products have faced hindrances at foreign ports. There is no reasonable answer to the question regarding the shrinkage in the markets of shrimp and frozen foods and traditional tea and leather products.
Jute, the golden fibre, has not been able to make its expected inroads into markets abroad. The market shares of advanced industries of herbal and pharmaceutical products are below the expected levels.
Almost all testing inspections of garments and textiles have to be conducted abroad at higher costs. Again, the rate of contamination of consumer products is high and alarming, and has a huge impact on national health. Medical diagnostic reports are, in most cases, rejected by prestigious health institutes. Tracing and testing of arsenic and its contamination of water have not been conducted in a proper and reliable manner.
The reality is that the results of chemical measurements are not comparable with the international standards of scientific measurement. So, these had been rejected to the tune of almost 53 per cent. Technical management does not meet international standards.
The absence of a reference lab created a difficult situation for Bangladesh, which had to depend on laboratories abroad—an expensive and time-consuming process.
The results of the chemical tests did not have any chemical metrological traceability and was not comparable with the measurement standards at BIMP in Paris.
In an unfortunate development, in 2009, poisonous melamine was eventually detected in baby food after receiving a reliable test report from Thailand, when local laboratories had produced different results. Hence, it became imperative to have reliable and trustworthy test reports that meet internationally approved standards and guidelines. So it became necessary to build a reference institute for chemical measurement in Bangladesh. This led to the establishment of the prestigious RDiCM.
After in-depth scientific research and discussions with the national community, Dr Mala Khan, scientist and project director of DRiCM, proposed forming such a prestigious chemical metrology institute. It was also considered necessary to conform to two compelling conditions—the agreement on Technical Barriers to Trade (TBT) and the Sanitary and Phytosanitary (SPS) agreement of the World Trade Organization (WTO).
The Bangladesh government approved and allocated a budget of Tk. 29.2 crore for 2008–12 to implement an ADP project named ‘Development of ISO 17025 accredited instrumentation and calibration service laboratory for chemical measurement’ under the ministry of science and technology to establish the nation’s first reference laboratory in chemistry under the Instrumentation and Calibration Laboratory (ICSL) of the BCSIR. ICSL was renamed the Designated Reference Institute for Chemical Measurement at the 228th board meeting of BCSIR and was duly approved by the science and technology ministry.
Dr Mala Khan’s efforts bore fruit and DRiCM successfully began its journey. Dr Khan received the prestigious APMP DEN Development Economy Award in 2015 for her important role and achievement in building the infrastructure of chemical metrology in Bangladesh.
International communities, viz. the European Union, agencies of the United Nations, local and international organisations, industrial units, scientists and educationists have praised the DRiCM, as this reference laboratory has participated in different scientific and technical activities from its inception.
This laboratory, as a member of BIPM, was listed among the best institutes in the world related to metrology on 10 October 2012. It is connected to the cooperative network of reference institutes of similar types, totalling 273.
On 7 May 2013, DRiCM became a member of the Asia Pacific Metrology Programme (APMP), getting 100 per cent of the votes of the member countries.
DRiCM provides analytical services and training to the institutes related to exports, imports and industrial and educational research. Its clients are: Occucare, a US pharmaceutical company, BASF of Germany, a chemicals manufacturing company, France-based inspection and certification body, Bureau Varitus, a research institute of the US, Algasol Limited, the European Commission, the Trading Corporation of Bangladesh (TCB) under the commerce ministry, National Museum of Bangladesh, Biman Bangladesh Airlines, Unilever Bangladesh Limited, Marico International, ACI Group, Square Consumers Products, Pran Group, Akij Group, Ispahani, Elite Cosmetics Group, inspection wings of ASB, CID, Carbon Mining Bangladesh Limited, different universities, ASM Chemical Industries, Aristopharma, Bridge Pharmaceutical Limited, Beacon Pharmaceuticals, Padma Chemicals, JB Enterprise, Nafij Plastics, Loyed Agency, Sun Eye Agro Food Industries Limited, Geographic Information System (GIS), Bangladesh Small and Cottage Industries Corporation (BISIC), etc.
DRiCM proved to be an exceptional research and chemical calibration institution. It started serving its clients before the completion of the project periods and earned more than Tk. 1.5 crore.
DRiCM has signed memoranda of understanding (MoU) with Unilever Bangladesh Limited, Bureau Varitau, Pran RFL Group, Akij Food and Beverage Limited, Kutex Solution and Algasol Bangladesh Limited.
After conducting thorough national need assessment surveys and studies, gap analysis, strategic analysis and priority identification, a total of 10 strategic packages of services has been identified for dissemination by DRiCM.
DRiCM ensures that the quality of the services fit the purposes as per national and international norms and standards to meet the clients’ needs as well as technical requirements. The services are open to the clients in public and private industries, for the clients in the regulatory field and also in technical conformity assessment bodies and the academia. The services are:
• Assigning Reference Values with Metrological Traceability
• Standard Reference Material of Bangladesh (SRMB)
• Reference Measurements Services in Chemistry
• Proficiency Testing and Inter-Laboratory Comparison Services
• Chemical Testing Services
• Instrumentation Calibration Services
• Method Validation Services
• Training and Consultancy Services
• Contract Research Services
• Support for Higher Degree Research Programmes
DRiCM is now a world-standard reference chemical measurement institute, adding value to scientific, academic, research and socioeconomic and environmental issues of Bangladesh.
The key aim is to make this reference institute sustainable so that it can provide services to public and private, national and international organisations. To leverage this value, it has decided to create around 80 posts for making this reference institute more efficient and functional.
But some employees and senior scientists of BCSIR have created potential hindrances against government decisions. They have sought “unjustified promotions” and demanded “unauthorised recruitments” from the existing employee pool of BCSIR, sources claimed. They have filed cases in the High Court that are not at all justified, according to sources, and these could have an impact on the mission of this reference chemical measurement institute.
DRiCM said it expected all sorts of cooperation from the highest authorities to cope with these hindrances, so that the vision and mission of DRiCM can be upheld.
The departmental promotional committee (DPC) recommended the authorities concerned to appoint Mala Khan as chief scientific officer—but the BCSIR board is yet to implement the DPC recommendation due to unknown reason. Sources said, the BCSIR had published an open circular through newspapers for appointing the post and Mala Khan participated it.
Meanwhile, at least four scientific officers have already been resigned from the DRiCM and many others are taking preparation to leave the organization due to conspiracy by some rogue scientists in the BCSIR.
Steps would be taken to make DRiCM a profitable research-based organisation, Serajul Huq Khan, secretary in the science and technology ministry, told this correspondent.
“Mala Khan deserves fulfilment of her proper demands. The ministry will try to fulfil her expectations,” he said in reply to a query. Action would be taken against those involved in tarnishing the image of the institution, he added.
Source: The Independent, 2 October, 2016
Professor Dr. Md. Aftab Ali Shaikh
Bangladesh Council of Scientific and Industrial Research
Dr. Mala Khan
Chief Scientific Officer &
Director (Addl. Charge)