business

BRI projects thrive in Middle East despite COVID-19 threats

CAIRO, Dec. 13 (Xinhua) — Casting shadow over the world this year, the COVID-19 pandemic has been suffocating almost all economies and strangling their business activities, especially the cross-border cooperation.

Nevertheless, in remote deserts and along the Gulf bay, Chinese workers, shoulder to shoulder with local friends, have never stopped their efforts in building various projects of landmarks, energy and technologies.

These projects under the China-proposed Belt and Road Initiative (BRI) have been lighting up the murky circumstances and creating a brighter future for participants and the China-Middle East ties.

AFRICA’S TALLEST SKYSCRAPER-TO-BE

“The project team focuses on safety standards, and we are particularly impressed by the new technologies and methods from China,” said Yara, a student from Egypt’s Ain Shams University, when visiting the construction site of a new capital CBD project by China State Construction Engineering Corporation (CSCEC).

Located some 50 km east of the capital Cairo, the project is under construction by Chinese and Egyptian workers. It includes a planned 385-meter high Iconic Tower, which is expected to be the tallest skyscraper in Africa upon completion, a candidate for Egypt’s another landmark like pyramids.

“The tower is a spectacular project built by a perfect team.” Ibrahim Samy, professor from the Faculty of Engineering and Materials Science at German University in Cairo, expressed amazement after a visit in October.

In late November, the main structure of a high-rise office building completed its roof-sealing, a milestone in the project, and an even more remarkable achievement considering all the difficulties from the pandemic.

Since the virus outbreak in Egypt this February, the CSCEC has adopted strict anti-virus measures to ensure the safety in the construction area, where all the staff and workers are required to wear face masks and gloves, ride in designated vehicles, and receive regular temperature tests.

Around 7,000 personnel working and living there have been protected from the pandemic, some of them saying “it’s much safer here.”

“The CSCEC (Egypt) will continue to strengthen the security barrier against the pandemic, push forward the construction of the new capital CBD project, and create a happy living environment for the Egyptian people,” said the construction giant on its social media.

A LETTER OF THANKS

“After what we have experienced, choosing to stay and work for the project will become one of our most beautiful memories. I call it solidarity and brotherhood,” said Fang Jie, construction manager of Hunutlu Thermal Power Plant in Turkey, in a letter to his colleagues. “Thank you all.”

Turkey, the worst-hit country by COVID-19 in the Middle East, has so far registered over 1.8 million infections. However, altogether 1,831 Chinese and Turkish personnel chose to stay and continue their work.

Moreover, to speed up the construction, 455 Chinese staff members, some of them having newborn babies or just graduating from school, flew to Turkey and joined the project in August, regardless of health risks.

The Chinese side has also organized volunteers to clean the beach near the construction site, and invested in improving local environment for sea turtles to lay and hatch eggs, earning good reputation from local residents.

Located in the southern province of Adana, the Hunutlu project, with a total investment of 1.7 billion U.S. dollars mainly from the Shanghai Electric Power Company, is China’s biggest project with direct investment in Turkey, and a flagship project linking the BRI with Turkey’s “Middle Corridor” vision.

It, including the construction of the power plant and ports specially designed for coal transportation, is expected to have a capacity of 1,320 megawatt after completion, and to generate 9 billion kilowatt hours every year with full operation, accounting for an estimated 3 percent of all electricity supplies across Turkey.

KEEPER OF PROMISE

In the desert of southeastern Jordan, over 2,000 Chinese staff members are constructing the Attarat Oil Shale Power Plant. It is expected to become Jordan’s largest one upon completion, meeting around 15 percent of the country’s need for power.

After two months of suspension caused by COVID-19, construction has been gradually resumed since early May, said Luo Xiongdong, with China Energy Engineering Group Guangdong Power Engineering, constructor of the project.

He said Chinese workers were not startled by the pandemic, even when the situation in Jordan has worsened in past weeks, but continued their work with high-level preventive measures, so as to keep the promise for the Arab country.

One generator under construction will be delivered by the end of this year and another one next year, Luo added.

Ibrahim Gharaibeh, a researcher at the University of Jordan’s Center for Strategic Studies, said the BRI and Chinese people have helped launch and push forward the plant project, “which creates huge opportunities for Jordan, a state highly dependent on energy imports.”

In the United Arab Emirates (UAE), with which China has comprehensive strategic partnership, staff of Harbin Electric International Company Limited also kept the pace in building the Hassyan clean coal power plant.

Safeguarded by high-standard health and hygiene measures, the company has realized important achievements, such as the connection to the grid for power generation. At the beginning of December, the project’s commercial operation started.

As a key project to play an important role in supporting the UAE Clean Energy Strategy 2050, the Hassyan plant is the first investment project by the Silk Road Fund in the Middle East, and will be the first clean coal power plant in Mideast when completed.

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