The construction of the Padma Bridge may be affected if the coronavirus situation does not improve within the next two months, Road Transport and Bridges Minister Obaidul Quader said yesterday.
“We would not face any problem regarding Padma Bridge’s construction if the impasse [centring coronavirus] is over within two months… There would be some problem if it lingers for three-four months,” he said.
Quader, also the general secretary of ruling Awami League, said this while speaking to reporters at his secretariat office after holding a review meeting on the development projects under his ministry.
Meanwhile, Railways Minister Nurul Islam Sujan said coronavirus would also impact railways projects.
“Bangladesh and China are maintaining a relationship of mutual cooperation and China is a major development partner of Bangladesh, so it [coronavirus] would impact both Bangladesh and China,” Sujan told reporters at Rail Bhaban.
Railways Ministry Senior Secretary Mofazzel Hossain said 878 Chinese nationals are working for the Padma Bridge Rail Link and they are staying at several subcamps.
Project officials were asked to keep the Chinese nationals, who will return from China soon, quarantined for two weeks and they have written to the civil surgeons of the districts where they were living to keep continuous watch, he told reporters at the press conference.
The press conference was arranged to announce that BR is going to increase the number of trips between Bangladesh and India from next week.
Similar steps have been taken for Chinese nationals involved in Chattogram to Cox’s Bazar (Ramu) Rail Link project, he added.
The ministers and the senior secretary made the comments when there is an apprehension that work on several mega development projects may be hampered if the coronavirus situation does not improve soon.
Many Chinese nationals working under those projects are now home on leave to celebrate the Chinese New Year. Given the situation in China, they might not be able to return and join work on time, said officials linked to the projects.
Several hundred Chinese nationals working in many of the projects have had their leaves extended and there could be further extension. Besides, several other project authorities were mulling similar steps, they said.
The projects include Padma Bridge, Padma Bridge Rail Link, Payra 1320MW Thermal Power Plant, Chattogram to Cox’s Bazar (Ramu) Rail Link, construction of a tunnel under the Karnaphuli river, and upgrading the Dhaka Bypass Road.
The seventh strain of the coronavirus was first detected in China’s Wuhan city in December. At least 492 people have died with more than 25,000 confirmed cases around the world.
Obaidul Quader said 332 out of 980 Chinese nationals working for the Padma Bridge project went on leave. Thirty-three of them returned, of whom eight completed the quarantine period while the rest are on observation.
“Our works will go on if their leave is not prolonged,” he added.
The headquarters of China Major Bridge Engineering Co Ltd, which is implementing the bridge, is in the Wuhan city, the epicentre of the outbreak.
Quader said 38 Chinese nationals are involved with the construction work of the Dhaka Elevated Expressway Project. Of them, 18 are on leave. “This will not create any problem,” he added.
He said 71 Chinese nationals are involved with the Bus Rapid Transit project. Of them, only one went on leave, while 31 out of 58 Chinese nationals, involved in the Metro Rail project, went on leave. “Their absence would not create any problem in the progress of the projects,” he claimed.
Quader also said that he has given directives to the Roads and Highways Department to cancel work orders of contractors if they failed to complete the work on time and if necessary, blacklist them.
He said the Bangladesh Road Transport Authority would collect 4 lakh licences from Bangladesh Machine Tools Factory as interim measures as a tender process in this regard has been cancelled over some allegations.