China Invests Heavily in Bangladesh-Boosts Electrical Grid, Smart City Project
China will be influential in building the first smart city in Bangladesh, called Purbachal. The project is located near the Bangladeshi capital of Dhaka and occupies 6,150 acres. Purbachal is a part of the more than $10 billion USD worth of Chinese investments in Bangladesh, which are adding both infrastructure and jobs to the economy.
According to Chinese state news agency Xinhua, The new city is “…the biggest planned township in Bangladesh, with many mega infrastructures including an international exhibition center under construction by another Chinese firm.”
The news agency went on to comment, “A Chinese and Bangladeshi joint venture has signed a deal with the Bangladeshi government to implement a mega water project in Dhaka’s Purbachal new township under the country’s Public Private Partnership (PPP) initiative.”
In order to supply Purbachal with water, the Meghna river will be partially diverted. The water aspect of Purbachal is a massive infrastructure project in its own right and will affect the watershed of the Meghna river. China is backing a number of massive projects in Bangladesh, some of which have been unpopular with the local population.
China Making Big Investments in Bangladesh
As a part of the Belt and Road Initiative (BRI, or One Belt One Road ‘OBOR’) China is building global infrastructure on perhaps the largest scale in recorded history. In Bangladesh, China has helped to bring Bangladesh’s total electrical output to a projected 23,222 megawatts (MW) by the end of the calendar year.
Other Chinese investments in Bangladesh include the Payra Power Plant, the 8th China Bangladesh Friendship Bridge, the Chinese Economic and Industrial Zone, and the International Exhibition Center. Xinhua reported that the Payra coal-fired power plant will add 660 MW of electrical power to the Bangladeshi grid starting in 2020, in its first phase.
Xinhua added that the Chinese United Water Corporation will be developing the infrastructure to supply water with Bangladeshi company Delcot Water Limited, in a deal called, “Development of Water Distribution and Supply Facilities at Purbachal New Town through Public-Private Partnership.” The PPP is the first one in the history of Bangladesh.
Cutting Edge Technology Meets Local Problems
In addition to established technology, like coal-fired power plants, China has also committed to installing as much as 500 megawatts of renewable power by 2023. The renewable power projects are expected to cost as much as $400 million USD, which is less than 5% of the total outlay for Bangladeshi development at this point.
Earlier this year a $2.5 billion USD power plant that is under construction in Bangladesh was marred by violence that left at least one Chinese worker dead. The project is being managed by the Bangladesh-China Power Co Ltd (BCPCL), and in addition to the loss of life, major equipment was removed from the construction site during the incident.
Like many projects that China invests in, many Chinese workers are brought into the nation, and relationships with the local population are sometimes strained. The power plant is a 50:50 joint investment between Bangladesh and China and is expected to come online in 2020.
China is also helping Bangladesh to build a permanent submarine base at Cox’s Bazar. Construction is scheduled to begin by the end of 2019 and will be undertaken by Chinese firms. Bangladesh has two Chinese-built Ming-Class (Type 035G) submarines, which entered service recently, in 2017.