‘Coronavirus’ hits Padma bridge

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Coronavirus, originating in China, has had an impact on the implementation of the Padma bridge project.

Import of the project’s materials has been suspended from China, the original source of coronavirus.

There might be a crisis of materials in a month or two if the current situation continues, officials have said.

About 250 Chinese engineers and officials have been stranded in China as they went on leave for Chinese New Year. They have been asked not to come back to Bangladesh. This has slowed the implementation of the Padma bridge project.

Officials said the bridge authorities have taken various measures to contain the spread of coronavirus in the country.

The authorities have proposed to send back Tk 13.55 billion of the annual development programme (ADP) of the fiscal 2019-20 as the implementation has slowed down.

The authority, however, said the portion of the money is being sent back as the amount will remain unutilised due to the time extension of the project.

Deadly coronavirus was detected in Wuhan city of China in the first week of January. The coronavirus panic has spread all over the world.

According to the latest information, the cost of Padma bridge project increased to Tk 301.93 billion and time has been extended to June 2021.

China Major Bridge Engineering Company is implementing the Padma bridge project. A total of 77 per cent work was completed till January. The Chinese contracting firm builds super structure in its home country and brings it to Bangladesh. This is then assembled in Bangladesh.

Speaking to Prothom Alo, project director Shafiqul Islam said, “We have stopped importing Chinese materials since the detection of coronavirus. The work of the project would not be affected until the materials stock is exhausted. We have to import materials from alternative sources if the situation does not improve.”

He said those who travelled to China on leave are not coming back anytime soon.

Bridge division sources said the materials in stock will be used up within two months.

About 5,500 engineers and workers have been working on Padma Bridge. Of them, over 650 engineers are Chinese. Besides, around 150 employees are from various countries.

Bangladesh Bridge Authority sources said around 250 Chinese employees traveled to home to celebrate New Year in January.

Some 30 employees returned in the third week of January. They were kept for observation for 30 days in the project area, and none of them detected coronavirus.

In the current fiscal of 2019-20, a total of Tk 53.70 billion was allocated for the implementation of Padma Bridge. The bridge authorities will not be able to spend the entire money due to the time extension and the impact of coronavirus.

The planning ministry has already started working to amend the ADP. The bridge authorities have said that it wants to return Tk 13.55 billion.

Chinese contractors have been implementing a number of big projects in which Chinese natiionals work.

The projects include the Padma rail link project and the construction of a tunnel under the Karnaphuli river.

*This report, originally published in Prothom Alo print edition, has been rewritten in English by Rabiul Islam.

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