A pilot project to take overhead cables underground in Dhanmondi area of the capital faces delay due to the outbreak of deadly coronavirus in China.
Dhaka Power Distribution Company Ltd (DPDC) could not start its underground cabling pilot project as per schedule as the team of a Chinese contractor has been stuck in Wuhan due to the prevalence of coronavirus, officials said.
According to sources at the DPDC, the project's work was supposed to start in the first week of January.
"But the entire team of the Tabian Electric Apparatus (TBEA) Co. Ltd, the Chinese government-selected contractor which won the project work, has got stuck in Wuhan", said a senior official at the DPDC who is dealing with the project.
The official, who preferred not to be named, said the TBEA office has been closed in Wuhan, the epic centre of the deadly virus, and now it is uncertain when the office will reopen.
He said only a few of the officials of the Chinese company are now in Dhaka. DPDC officials communicate with them through videoconferencing to avoid any trouble.
DPDC managing director Bikash Dewan admitted the matter and hoped that the contractor will be able to start work as soon once the coronavirus crisis will be over.
The DPDC signed the contract with the TBEA in September last year to implement the China-funded Tk 20,500 crore mega project to raise distribution capacity of its network in the capital.
Under the scheme, 40 substations will be set up in the city while overhead cables of Hatirjheel Lake and Dhanmondi residential areas will be laid underground over the next five years.
Under the pilot project, DPDC officials said, about 105 km of all kinds of overhead electric cables will go underground and there will be no cable visible in a certain part of Dhanmondi area that include Satmasjid Road, Mirpur Road, City Collage and Greenherald School area.
Officials said all kinds of materials, equipment and system were brought to the country for the Dhanmondi pilot project and everything was ready to start the work.
"But, the coronavirus outbreak has forced us to suspend the programme," said the DPDC official adding that now the work may start next year as the government prefers to implement such project in winter to avoid public sufferings.
In such work, involvement of different organisations like Dhaka Wasa, Dhaka city corporations and other utility agencies will be required, he added.
Bikash Dewan said the capacity of a number of substations will also be improved under the project.
Once the project is implemented, the capacity of 132kV level will go up to 5,330 MVA and 33 kV level to 4680 MVA, Dewan mentioned.
The Chinese contractor was selected for implementing the project to be financed by Chinese Exim Bank.