Workers return to construction projects as virus restrictions are relaxedThe government has announced that development projects can recommence by following safety standards.
Construction crews have returned to work at two hydropower plants and the Kali Gandaki transmission corridor project after a one-and-a-half-month virus break following the government's announcement that development projects could recommence by maintaining safety standards and social distancing.
Work on the 20 megawatt Lower Modi and 15.1 megawatt Mid Modi has been going on in earnest since May 7.
Lower Modi was slated to start producing electricity last year, but a leak developed in the tunnel during tests, and the completion deadline had to be pushed back.
Workers began repair work on the tunnel last September, and the plant was expected to come online by mid-June; but the coronavirus outbreak prevented that from happening.
According to project officials, 100 workers were sent home on March 11 after the pandemic started spreading across the globe. Nepal has been under lockdown since March 24 to contain the spread of the virus. It has been extended several times with the last extension being until May 18.
Surendra Belbase, information officer at the Lower Modi project, said that some workers were hired with the permission of the Home Ministry after the government relaxed lockdown restrictions and permitted infrastructure projects to resume work by practicing social distancing.
"We have created groups of at least 10 people each who perform their duties by keeping distance between themselves and following safety standards," he said.
The project has also hired workers from outside the district with the permission of the Home Ministry. According to him, the nine workers from Makwanpur are being kept in a separate camp.
Chief District Officer Kalpana Ghimire Nepal said they allowed the project to resume work by enforcing safety guidelines.
"Initially, we didn't know that the Lower Modi project had hired workers from outside," she said. "After we got the information, we asked the project chief to put them in quarantine before allowing them on the construction site," she said.
The Mid Modi project has resumed work with a limited number of workers, said Ashok Acharya, information officer of the project. "We are back at work, but with a small workforce."
Workers returned to work at the Kali Gandaki transmission corridor project, Modi-Lekhnath transmission line project and two hydroelectric schemes on the Modi Khola after lockdown restrictions were loosened.
The Kali Gandaki power line is being built with funding from the Nepal government and the Nepal Electricity Authority and a soft loan from the Asian Development Bank. It will evacuate electricity generated by hydropower projects planned to be built in the Kali Gandaki River basin.
The completion of the project was slated for November 2018, but it missed the deadline for various reasons.
Project officials said that the workers had been engaged at the construction site for a long time, and there was no risk of them getting infected from new arrivals as nobody from outside was allowed there.
Most of the workers had returned home due to the prolonged lockdown, and those who could not leave for various reasons have been permitted to return to work.
Chandan Kumar Ghosh, project chief of the Kali Gandaki transmission corridor project, said that a small number of workers were engaged at the construction site as many who returned home after the lockdown were stuck there.