The Chinese New Year is almost here again and this has given rise to the fear of coronavirus spreading again. Bangladesh is also linked to China’s celebrations and apprehensions because a part of the human resources working on the Padma bridge project are Chinese nationals. One-third of them are now heading to China to celebrate the New Year. Due to the country’s strict quarantine policy and limited flights, these workers will not be able to return to work any time soon. As a result, the pace of work on the Padma Bridge may slow down again.
According to the Bridges Division, Tk 50 billion (Tk 5000 crore) was allocated for Padma bridge in the current budget, assuming that the project would be completed by next June. However, the work did not go as expected in the first six months of the current fiscal year due to the coronavirus outbreak and floods. As a result, Tk 30 billion from the allocation is being withdrawn.
An engineer from the UK was due to arrive last December. But he will not be able to come before next May or June. If that engineer came, another team could have been formed to lay the slabs. Now, four teams work in two shifts. This too will be disrupted as the Chinese workers go on vacation.
However, Shafiqul Islam, director of the Padma bridge project told Prothom Alo that more Chinese workers would go on holiday in previous years. That caused deep trouble last year. But, relatively less Chinese nationals have left for vacation this year, so he thinks it is possible to make up for the loss.
More than 4000 workers are working on the main bridge and river training. Most of them are Bangladeshi. There are about one thousand skilled Chinese workers. One third of them have gone on vacation, project sources said.
The Chinese New Year holiday stretches from 11 to 25 February. The workers of the Padma bridge project have started to leave for China from 12 January.
After reaching China, they had to go under quarantine twice. First, in the town they landed, then in their homes at the villages and provinces. With all this together, they will not be able to return to their work before two months. Many Chinese workers who went on holiday last year, could not return due to coronavirus. This had an effect on the work of the project. This time the brides division advised not to send a lot of people on holiday. But most of those who have gone on vacation are engineers and skilled workers. This includes the project manager himself.
However, the secretary of the bridges division, Belayet Hossain told Prothom Alo that if the Chinese workers return timely, there would be no problem at work.
This report appeared in the print and online edition of Prothom Alo and has been rewritten in English by Ashish Basu