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The Financial Express

Shortage of labour

Corona hits work on mega projects

Munima Sultana | Published: April 02, 2020 09:27:02 | Updated: April 02, 2020 19:05:52


FE file photo used for representation FE file photo used for representation

Mega ongoing projects like Padma Bridge, metro rail and Matarbari power plant have hit speed bumps as local employees have left the sites in fear of coronavirus.

Some areas, including Padma Bridge and Hazrat Shahjalal International Airport Third Terminal projects, are better-equipped to prevent the spread of the superbug.

Yet, sources said, members of any local manufacturing labour force are hardly available to carry the day-to-day work.

Building works are likely to fully stop as foreign consultants, dominated by Japanese, are going to leave Bangladesh for home.

Bangladesh Bridges Authority (BBA) sources said being a KPI area, Padma Bridge project sites are totally confined and workers are allowed to stay inside the compound since COVID-19 transmission here.

Work has so far been carried out with the Chinese officials and employees of Major Bridge Engineering Corporation Limited on a limited scale, they added.

"Now, it is not in our control," project director Mohammad Shahiqul Islam told the FE from the Mawa site over phone.

He said it is difficult to maintain daily schedule of progress in the absence of the local labour force, whose number is decreasing daily.

The project office succeeded in installing 29th span this week, making visible a total of four kilometres, sources said.

But the target to complete entire span installation work by June 2020 is unlikely to be met with the continuation of the current situation.

According to project office data in February, 429 Chinese out of the total 665 staff members of the main bridge contractor are now working on project sites.

The rest of the Chinese nationals who went home to celebrate the New Year were not allowed to join Dhaka working station due to spread of coronavirus in China.

After the government offices were declared closed until April 04, the project offices were asked to carry out work on a limited scale with standby workers.

The officials said 30 to 40 per cent of daily work could be carried out in the present circumstances.

BBA executive engineer Dewan Adbul Kader said contractors are trying to maintain work with Chinese staffers to place road slabs on the visible structure.

An estimated 2,000 out of the total 6,500 staff members are now working on the site. The Padma Bridge project, being implemented under the BBA, recorded 78-per cent overall progress as of January 2020.

Progress in the bridge part was 86 per cent and river training work 70 per cent. The progress in February was also the same, according to the BBA website.

However, the metro rail projects, of which only Mass Rapid Transit Line-06 was under construction, have almost been stalled.

Sources said Japan has asked all its firms working on different projects here to leave for home keeping a skeleton staff to work with the contractors.

Only some Japanese experts will work with the projects which contractors are now working for MRT-06 and Matarbari Power Plant, they added.

The Japanese working under MRT-01 and MRT-06 projects are likely to leave Dhaka along with the Japanese diplomats and businessmen by a chartered plane today.

Due to not having any protection, BBA sources said, work on the Dhaka Elevated Expressway project has come down to a total halt.

"The local labour issue is a problem, but the officials of Thai contractor, the Italian Thai Development PLC, also left Bangladesh," concluded Mr Islam.

smunima@yahoo.com

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