Chinese-funded power plant in Bangladesh delayed after workers clash

DHAKA (Reuters) - The construction of a $2.5 billion power plant in Bangladesh, a joint venture with China, will be delayed after critical equipment was stolen or destroyed during clashes between workers at the site this week, a senior official said on Sunday.

A Chinese worker was killed and at least six injured on Wednesday when violence erupted between Bangladeshi and Chinese construction workers at the plant, with the former angered by the death of a colleague in a fall.

Abdul Mowla, general manager of the Bangladesh-China Power Co Ltd (BCPCL), which is 50:50 funded by China and Bangladesh, said as a result of the damage the coal-based 1,320 megawatt power plant would not come on line early next year as planned.

He said he did not know the new target date for the plant, which is being constructed near the port of Payra 200 miles (320 km) from Dhaka.

A Siemens-produced directive control system, the equivalent of the brains of the facility, has gone missing, Mowla said.

Cranes were also inactive at the site, as a hydraulics system has been disabled and needs foreign experts to be brought in to get it working again, he added.

Mowla said a “huge” amount of destruction inside the plant had resulted from the clashes.

There have been tensions between Chinese and local workers in a number of parts of south and southeast Asia in recent years as China has increased its investments in infrastructure as part of its Belt and Road trade and growth initiative.

Construction of the coal-fired plant employs about 8,000 workers, of whom 2,700 are Chinese.

Mowla said that the full cost of the destruction and delays has yet to be ascertained.

The company has sent its Bangladeshi workers off on 15 days’ leave, effective from Sunday, while the site is cleaned up, he said.

All the Chinese workers are living in the dormitories inside the plant premises and their safety has been ensured, Mowla added. Some of them have been engaged in the clean-up.

Monirul Islam, the officer in charge of Kalapara police station, said that 16 Bangladeshi workers have been arrested.

The company has filed a case with police, saying that around 600 workers were involved in committing offences, though it hasn’t named them.

Reporting by Serajul Quadir; Editing by Martin Howell and Jan Harvey