Field-level work on 25 ongoing power transmission projects remained suspended since the coronavirus outbreak in China, hitting hard the power sector development.

According to official sources, most of these projects were either awarded to Chinese contractors or their equipment were supposed to come largely from China.

"Neither the Chinese workers, nor the equipment are coming from China since the pandemic hit Wuhan," said a top official at the Power Grid Company of Bangladesh (PGCB).

He said many Chinese companies are working as subcontractors as well in Bangladesh's power transmission sector.

The PGCB official said although coronavirus situation in China has improved, Chinese officials and workers, especially the technicians, are not coming back as the situation in Bangladesh is deteriorating. "As a result, we had to suspend the field-level works on the transmission projects," he added.

Official sources said the projects include construction of Rahanpur to Monakasha Border 400kV Transmission Line in Chapainawabganj to Import Power from India (Jharkhand) to Bangladesh, Integrated Capacity Development Project in the Power Transmission System of Bangladesh, Southwest Transmission Grid Expansion Project, Construction of 500 MW HVDC Back-to-Back Station at Cumilla North (Bangladesh) for Transfer of Power through Surjamaninagar (Tripura, India) - Comilla North (Bangladesh).

Some of other projects are Infrastructure Development for Power Evacuation Facilities of Rooppur Nuclear Power Plant, Replacement of Ashuganj Old 132 kV AIS Substation by New 132 kV GIS Substation Project, Development of Transmission Infrastructure at Mirsharai Economic Zone for Reliable Power Supply, Construction of Bheramara (Bangladesh)-Baharampur (India) 2nd 400kV Transmission Line (Bangladesh Portion), and Construction of Bakerganj-Barguna 132kV Transmission Line and Barguna 132/33kV Substation.

Some of the projects were undertaken as priority ones aiming to facilitate power transmission from some major power plants which include Aminbazar-Maowa-Mongla 400 KV Transmission Line Project, Matarbari Ultra Super Critical Coal-Fired Power Project (II) (PGCB Part: Matarbari-Madunaghat 400 kV Transmission Line), Patuakhali-Payra 230 kV Transmission Line Project, Construction of Patuakhali (Payra)-Gopalganj 400 kV Transmission Line and Gopalganj 400 kV Grid Substation, Dhaka and Western Zone Transmission Grid Expansion Project, Expansion and Strengthening of Power System Network under Chattogram Area.

Bangladesh Power System Reliability and Efficiency Improvement Project, Enhancement and Strengthening of Power Network in Eastern Region, Barapukuria - Bogura-Kaliakoir 400 kV Transmission Line Project, Power Grid Network

Strengthening Project under PGCB, Energy Efficiency in Grid Based Power Supply Project, Dhaka- Chattogram Main Power Grid Strengthening Project, Mongla-Khulna(S) 230 kV Transmission Line Project, Amnura 132/33 kV Grid Substation with associated 132 kV Transmission Line Project, Western Grid Network Development Project and National Power Transmission Network Development Project are also among the affected schemes.

Golam Kibria, Managing Director of PGCB, recognised the grim situation in project implementation saying, "We're trying our best to take forward the implementation process. But it'll be difficult to resume work at field level until the situation improves."

He mentioned that Bangladeshi workers are also unable to join the field-level work as local people are not allowing them to enter their neigbourhoods.

State Minister Nasrul Hamid said the government was giving utmost emphasis on implementation transmission projects as the priority is given to improvement of transmission system rather than power generation.

"We're now in a better situation in power generation. So, our next focus is on improving the transmission facilities to ensure uninterrupted power supply to people," he said.

"Now there's a big concern about the fast implementation of the transmission projects due to the coronavirus situation," Nasrul told UNB.

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