Covid-19 outbreak hampering slew of infrastructure projects

Published On: March 10, 2020 07:41 AM NPT By: Republica  | @RepublicaNepal

KATHMANDU, March 10: Over a dozen infrastructure development projects are being hit hard by the shortfall of foreign workers and supply disruptions caused by the new coronavirus outbreak.

A number of infrastructure projects, mainly those with Chinese involvement, are being delayed as the Chinese nationals working on those projects in various capacities are now stuck in China where they had gone to celebrate the Chinese new year. Parts of that huge country have in effect been placed under lockdown, including Hubei Province, the epicenter of the coronavirus outbreak.

Hydropower and road construction projects are among the projects that have borne the brunt of the global spread of the virus. These include the Madhya Bhotekoshi Hydropower Project, Sanjen Hydropower Project, Trishuli 3B Hydropower Project, the second-phase widening of the Ring Road along the Kalanki-Chabahil section, a 113 km segment of the Butwal-Narayanghat road project, upgrading of the Rasuwagadhi-Syaphrubesi road section, Khimti-2 Hydropower, Langtang Khola Hydropower, Pokhara International Airport and Gautam Buddha International Airport, among others.
The construction sector has been the most vulnerable, followed by tourism and manufacturing. In the tourism sector, hotel occupancy has dropped below 40%. Manufacturing has also suffered as most of the raw materials come from China.

The impact of the coronavirus appears likely to retard government plans to make the country energy-surplus soon. The government had announced a target of producing more than 1,000 MW of electricity this year. However, hydropower projects with a cumulative capacity of 1,500 MW are likely to miss their completion dates, according to the hydropower producers.

Shailendra Guragain, president of Independent Power Producers’ Association Nepal, said a total of 65 hydropower projects are directly or indirectly connected with Chinese contractors. The immediate impact of the virus outbreak has been seen in around two dozens projects, he said. 
“The construction work at Khimti-2, Rasuwagadhi and Langtang Khola hydropower projects has come to a complete halt,” he said. 

According to Nepal Electricity Authority, there are at least five power transmission projects being constructed by Chinese contractors, including the 220kV Bharatpur-Bardaghat, Chilime-Trishuli 3B and Ramechhap-Garjyang transmission lines and the 132 kV Bharatpur sub-station and 220 kV Trishuli sub-station. In Kathmandu Valley, the smart metering project for electricity billing has also been awarded to a Chinese contractor.

Likwise, road projects are also being affected by the coronavirus situation. Shivahari Sapkota, deputy director general at the Department of Roads, said apart from a few projects, the impact on road construction has been nominal as a majority of the projects are being undertaken by domestic contractors. According to him, the impact has been in the disruption of equipment and construction material imports. 


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