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Jakarta Post

Batang Toru plant project halted as Chinese workers unable to fly in from virus-hit China

  • Apriadi Gunawan

    The Jakarta Post

Medan   /   Wed, February 19, 2020   /   09:02 pm
Batang Toru plant project halted as Chinese workers unable to fly in from virus-hit China A large hydroelectrical project is being constructed right in the middle of the most important habitat for highly threatened orangutan in Batang Toru, North Sumatra. (Matty Neikrug/Matty Neikrug)

Development of the Batang Toru hydropower plant (PLTA) in South Tapanuli regency, North Sumatra, has been temporarily shut down as workers from mainland China are unable to fly to the country amid a travel ban implemented by the government over fears of the COVID-19 outbreak. 

The company that will operate the plant, PT North Sumatra Hydro Energy (NSHE), said it had suspended the construction project in August last year after Chinese technical workers from contractor Sinohydro were terminated because they were unable to properly carry out their duties.

The senior advisor for the president commissioner of NSHE, Emmy Hafild, said the company had arranged for 125 replacement workers, but they were unable to reach the Batang Toru project site because of the travel ban.

“We don’t know when the Batang Toru project can continue as it depends on when the government will lift the travel ban to and from mainland China,” Emmy told The Jakarta Post during a press meeting on Tuesday.

Emmy added that Batang Toru, which would cost Rp 22 trillion (US$1.6 billion) and have a power capacity of about 510 megawatts, was a collaboration with the government as part of its 35,000-megawatt national electricity strategic project.

Read also: Chinese workers in North Sumatra test negative for COVID-19 after 14-days of quarantine

She said the company had so far been working on tunneling for the project, which was mainly handled by Chinese workers. Therefore, Emmy said, the absence of Chinese workers had disrupted the current stage of construction.

“We hope to complete the Batang Toru project by 2022. But seeing the current conditions, we are certain that we will miss the target.”

Indonesia imposed a travel ban to and from China on Feb. 5, preventing people who had stayed for more than two weeks in China to visit or transit in the country, amid efforts to avoid the deadly coronavirus from spreading to the archipelago.

As of Wednesday, the death toll from COVID-19 — which was first detected in the Chinese city of Wuhan — has surged beyond 2,000, with more than 74,000 cases of infection globally. A majority of the deaths came from mainland China, but France, Japan, the Philippines, Taiwan and Hong Kong have each reported one death.

Indonesia has yet to report any confirmed cases, but at least four people have tested positive overseas; one Indonesian maid in Singapore and three on the Diamond Princess cruise ship anchored off the coast of Japan. (syk)