Thursday, 6 May, 2021

Hazardous Highway

Infrastructure development projects, especially construction and maintenance of roads, are hardly accomplished on time in Nepal due mainly to weak project implementation and monitoring mechanisms. There has been a propensity among contractors not to timely move such vital projects ahead in one pretext or the other. This not only leads to unnecessary rise in the project costs but also causes inconveniences to general public. There is no denying the fact that policymakers and other authorities concerned have also realised this problem and tried to resolve it. According to a news report published in this daily on Sunday, the Narayangadh-Butwal section of the East-West highway has been in a sorry state over the years. This road section seems to be turning into ruins gradually. With sharp bends and steep road at Daunne Hill, this is the most difficult stretch of the highway. The process of widening the road had begun four years back. And the task should be accomplished by 2022.
Most other stretches of the road wear a rough look because numerous patch works are going on. Since this road section records frequent vehicular accidents, passengers travelling along this highway are forced to undergo a lot of hardships. Even ambulances often get stuck on the road for hours due to terrible traffic congestion. Looking at a nominal progress made so far, the project is unlikely to be completed within the given timeframe. Almost half of the road section still awaits clearing of the forest, which has become a contentious issue. One of the main reasons for the delay in the road expansion is that the Chinese workers had returned home in late last December. They resumed the work only some months ago. There is no doubt that the East-West highway is a lifeline for business, trade and human relations as it is the sole road linking the eastern and western borders of the country. This section of the highway is key to transporting goods and people because it connects Bhairahawa, a major trading point at the southern border with India. A large number of heavy trucks carrying goods ranging from petroleum to vegetables and heavy machineries ply through this highway daily.
Locals of Dumkibas, a town at the foothill of Daunne, fear for the worst with the entire road passing through the area in a dilapidated condition. Besides, all the shops and settlements around it are seen covered with dust throughout the day. This puts the locals at high risk of respiratory illnesses. Besides, passengers are also forced to inhale dust, suffer bumps and fatigue. Vehicle owners have to spend more on maintenance and fuels. There are also high chances of road accidents along such a bumpy road. Anyway, the Department of Roads (DoR) has asked the contractors to step up immediate measures to reduce dust and other health hazards. With the loan support from the Asian Development Bank (ADB), the government has set aside Rs. 12.21 billion for the expansion of the East-West highway for the current fiscal year. Under this plan, the 1,028-km highway that was inaugurated in 1962 will turn into a four-lane highway in the next three years.