Tuesday, 3 August, 2021

We have given priority to complete pending projects


Nepal aims at graduating from the Least Developed Country Status (LDC) by 2022, and middle-income country by 2030, and to reach there it requires investing about 12 per cent of the Gross Domestic Product annually to the infrastructure development. But the development in the country is receiving multiple glitches due to weak legal instruments, capacity of contractors, lack of financing and land compensation as well as environmental issues. However, newly appointed Minister for Physical Infrastructure and Transport Basanta Kumar Nembang is spearheading to ensure timely implementation and conclusion of public infrastructure. He talked about his initiatives and national infrastructure development strategy and transport management in the weekly Gorkhapatra Sambad on Sunday. Excerpts: 

Weak development execution
Development of large infrastructure projects will not be an issue in the days to come since we have addressed it with better policy, programmes and laws and budget. Enough resources have been allocated to the projects that critical to the national and local development.
After assuming the post of the minister of Physical Infrastructure and Transport, I have realised that the weaknesses lie at the implementation. When we maintain accountability of the programme managers and concerned authorities as well as the leadership, and transparency in the activities, most of the challenges would be addressed automatically. I would like to emphasise that the leaders – both political and bureaucratic – must be sincere, accountable, transparent and diligent.

In order to resolve the developmental challenges, we need to make reforms in the three areas: policy, organisation and execution. We have almost completed the policy reforms while a couple of laws and bylaws are still in the course of development or amendment. The government organisations are being made smart while capable teams are being deployed at the critical departments and projects.
I have started the Organisational and management survey and transferred qualified officials to the key positions of major agencies. I want to boost the confidence of the hard-working government officers by giving them opportunity to exhibit their capacity. I have directed them to put sincere efforts to execute the respective jobs and assured no interference in their work. Attention would be paid to even small works that are important for people. I have asked the responsible authorities to make weekly reporting about the progress in the work and planning for the next week. I want to enhance the accountability in the part of the government.
I feel now that they have begun to work with positive vibes. There is no problem of non-cooperation among the government agencies and civil servants. Gone are the days when a file would keep circling the government office without any prompt decision.
Pride Projects
Most of the pride projects such as East-West Railway, highways, tunnels, Postal Highway, Mid-Hill Highway, Madan Bhandari Highway, north-south corridors are with the MoPIT. The speed of most of these large infrastructure projects was clumsy in the past. But we have given priority to complete the pending projects and their speed is rather satisfactory now. The government has started the development projects with a clear vision and planning.
Railways, waterways and tunnels are in priority. Work is started at the Sitapaila-Nagdhunga Tunnel and Tinkune-Jadibuti Tunnel while studies are undergoing at multiple locations for the same. In the next three to four years, there will be a couple of tunnels in the country. This is the time and we are the people to start the development in the country. We are trying to achieve the development vision of Prime Minister KP Sharma Oli. Waterways and East-West Railways are among his priority projects.
The Ministry has also facilitated the contractors in completing the sick projects. There were about 1,500 sick projects of various sizes across the country. Contractors were asked to submit the work schedule to complete the sick projects. A couple of large projects are also pending. In case of incompletion of these projects even within the additional time, the contractors would be black-listed and punished. There will be continuous monitoring of the reinitiated sick projects.

Ensuring quality
In case of the government projects, the provision of compensating the land should be removed. Design default, poor policies and execution and contractors' intention to take benefit from the loose legal framework were the main causes behind the increment in the number of sick projects.
There will soon be a mechanism to ensure quality of the public construction. Public has long been raising question about it. Our priority is to create tight legal provisions to maintain quality of construction, there should be no compromise.
Single-lane bridge will not work now. All the national, regional and strategic roads will be at least double lane. So will be the bridges. Sometimes there is a mismatch in the construction of bridge and road which is creating bottlenecks for traffic. About 300 bridges will be completed in this Fiscal Year 2019/20.

Road Safety
Road safety is another area of priority. We need to develop legal instrument to ensure road safety. Kathmandu is the hub of tourism, culture, economy and politics. People from all over the country come here for various works. Therefore, there is a pressure on traffic in the valley. Filling the potholes, maintaining the beautification, management of traffic light are the basic works, but the government aims at addressing the challenges in a sustainable way.
Current overlay of the road is a periodic maintenance that will last for three years. It is difficult to create a new road or conduct maintenance of roads Kathmandu Valley due to heavy traffic and a small window of time available in the night. To increase the road safety, the government will increase monitoring of 20-year old vehicles as they are restricted.
We have given priority in road-safety outside the Kathmandu Valley as well. A new wired technology is applied in Narayangadh-Mugling Road. Refreshment centres along the highways are also in the plan. Local bodies are interested to make such centres in the public-private-partnership (PPP) model.

Capital expenditure
There is still a trend to use up the budget in the last month of the fiscal year. The laws related to project development have been improved and recreated in order to facilitate swift development.
First three months of the FY during the monsoon should be used in developing Detailed Project Reports (DPR) of the projects, concluding tender process and completing other necessary procedures. There are many things that need to be concluded before calling for the tender – land acquisition, forest clearance, DPR, Environmental Impact Assessment (EIA) etc.

Ride Sharing
The case of ride sharing companies Tootle and Pathao has created controversy in the recent days. The government must facilitate the new technology. Ride sharing is in global practice, so we need to take positive steps. We must not apply restrictive measures in this case. We have to create appropriate policy to give way to innovation and create business opportunities in the country. Nobody is above the law, but we can address any problem with new policy instruments.
Old laws say that the private number plate bearing vehicles are not allowed to rental services. But the new federal structure of the country has given the right to manage the private vehicles to the States.
The State law has allowed the vehicles bearing private number plate to provide passenger travelling services if they have proper insurance and followed legal norms. The law was passed in February this year.
Court has also said that practical aspects should not be overlooked while regulating the ride-sharing companies and activities. The court has directed the government to create appropriate legal framework to regulate them.
Federal Capital Urban Public Transportation Management Bill is passed by the National Assembly. It will answer most of the questions related to ride sharing activities. An authority will be created in the Kathmandu Valley for transport management.
We are planning to keep the cables underground from our own resources from Gaushala to Tinkune. The DPR of the project is already ready.. We have to demolish the houses and land worth Rs. 6 billion in that area and it is the only obstruction and a problem for the government.
The government is going to lay the cables underground where there is the airport in one side and houses on the other.
The roads that fall under the Road Division and ministry are getting new face. Earlier, we used to receive phone calls asking about the potholes in Chabahil and Kalanki roads. We have coordinated with Nepal Water Supply Corporation for the potholes management, and now it’s going on inside the Ring Road. And now Ring Road looks clean and clear.

Road expansion
The two Ministries, Tourism and mine, are jointly working to build flyovers in five places, including Tinkune and Koteshwor. We are also opening a four lane underpass from Tinkune to Jadibuti. JICA is working on it.
A three lane road from Jadibuti to Patan will be constructed. We, two ministries, have already purchased the land for it. The one lane road will be extended from Tinkune to Jadibuti. We have already opened the tender for these works and we are bringing this road into operation within this fiscal year.

Cement industries
We had shortage of cement earlier but now we are self-reliant on it. There is a tension of surplus in the present context. The cement entrepreneurs are seeking to use the surplus production in road building, especially in the area where water flows from the roads, because blacktopping does not last long in the wet roads.
The industrialists are asking to use their product in those roads. They are asking for the utilisation of their products in the nation building projects, so that they could survive and the roads will also be strong. Their demand is genuine.

Construction of East-West 1000 km electric train is a pride project and this is the dream of Prime Minister Oli. We are working to collect national and international donations for the project.
From this fiscal year, construction of Kakarvitta to Inaruwa section will be started and budget has already been allocated for this. We will start the tender process within this year. ■