KATHMANDU, May 21: The second wave of COVID-19 has directly affected over 6,000 infrastructure projects.
Work on under-construction projects has been halted after the second wave of COVID-19 hit the country in the main season of infrastructure construction. Most of the roads and bridges in Nepal are paved and constructed from mid-April to mid-June. The second wave of COVID-19 has affected all kinds of projects including the projects of national pride.
Ravi Singh, president of the Federation of Contractors’ Association of Nepal (FCAN), said that the pandemic has brought more than 6,000 projects to a standstill. “The pace of work is very slow except for the projects that are being carried out by setting up camps,” he said. All sorts of projects related to tourism, drinking water, irrigation and other development projects have been affected.
The COVID-19 Crisis Management Center (CCMC) had issued precautionary measures to be taken while constructing development infrastructure on May 4. In the criteria issued by CCMC, it is mentioned that the project concerned should hire residential workers and make them work in compliance with the health standards.
But the FCAN said that the standards introduced by the CCMC have made the workers fearful of working in the infrastructure construction sector. FCAN President Singh said it would be difficult to build infrastructures at such risk during any kind of pandemic. “There is no need to work risking someone’s life. Problems arise when people are forcefully made to work," he said, adding that it is hard to transport laborers to the project sites and there is also a lack of construction materials.
Since the construction of roads and irrigation infrastructure is not limited to one place like construction of buildings, there is a danger of transmission of the infection. Not only that, there are incidents of obstructions while transporting workers to the sites.
There is also the lack of skilled manpower as the pandemic has affected neighboring country India and districts sharing borders with India. The arrival of unskilled manpower from India and Bangladesh necessary for the construction of roads and bridges has halted.
Shiva Kumar Nepal, deputy director general and spokesperson of the Department of Roads, said that most of the work in the infrastructure sector has been stopped due to the second wave of COVID-19. "The second wave of COVID has halted the construction of most of the projects under the Roads Department," he said.
According to the department, most of the roads and bridges under construction in the Kathmandu Valley are at a standstill. About 1,500 projects and 600 bridges are under construction under the Road Department. However, the district administration offices have not shown any interest in issuing passes for such project works. "The construction sector is not immune to the COVID pandemic," he said.
The department stated that only 41 percent of the capital budget has been spent till May 9.
Krishna Acharya, president of Independent Power Producers' Association, Nepal (IPPAN) said that there is a problem in moving ahead with the project as the second wave of COVID-19 is very deadly. "The impact of the second wave has disrupted public life across the country," he said, "Now is the time to save lives rather than work so it is better to not take any risk.”
According to IPPAN, more than 100 hydropower projects with a total capacity of 3,000 MW are currently under-construction. These projects will also be directly or indirectly affected by the second wave of the coronavirus. About 20 projects of 400 MW capacity have been completed in the current fiscal year.